Children perceive illusory faces in objects as male more often than female

Wardle, Susan G., Ewing, Louise ORCID:, Malcolm, George L. ORCID:, Paranjape, Sanika and Baker, Chris I. (2023) Children perceive illusory faces in objects as male more often than female. Cognition, 235. ISSN 0010-0277

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Face pareidolia is the experience of seeing illusory faces in inanimate objects. While children experience face pareidolia, it is unknown whether they perceive gender in illusory faces, as their face evaluation system is still developing in the first decade of life. In a sample of 412 children and adults from 4 to 80 years of age we found that like adults, children perceived many illusory faces in objects to have a gender and had a strong bias to see them as male rather than female, regardless of their own gender identification. These results provide evidence that the male bias for face pareidolia emerges early in life, even before the ability to discriminate gender from facial cues alone is fully developed. Further, the existence of a male bias in children suggests that any social context that elicits the cognitive bias to see faces as male has remained relatively consistent across generations.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was funded in part by the Intramural Research Program (ZIAMH002909) of the National Institutes of Health—National Institute of Mental Health awarded to C.I.B. Data availability: All visual stimuli, raw data, and analysis code are publicly available on the Open Science Framework (
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Developmental Science
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Cognition, Action and Perception
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2023 17:30
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2024 01:38
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105398


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