Home > Sex/Gender Differences, The Face > Androgyny Capitulates to Cosmetology

Androgyny Capitulates to Cosmetology

October 25, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Richard Russell of Harvard University has won third prize in the 2009 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest with his illusion of sex submission. The faces to the right both were created by averaging male and female faces to create an androgynous substrate that was then modified to exhibit the typical contrast differences found between female and male faces (below right). While the face is the same in both images, people typically see the face on the left as a woman’s and the face on the right as a man’s. This is because the underlying identical, androgynous face has been tonally modified to exhibit typical sex differences.

The image to the right shows these typical tonal differences. The leftmost image to the right (the predominantly white one) shows that areas around the eyes and lips are typically darker in women than men, and that skin tone is typically lighter. The rightmost image shows that the typical male- relative to the typical female – has lighter areas in the eyes/lips and darker skin.

Russell asserts two interesting things:

  • these characteristic tonal differences influence our perception of sex, and
  • the typical, recommended use of cosmetics by women enhances female characteristics.

I have not been able to access the full-text of Russell’s (2009) preprint article and it appears that the link to it at his web page has been severed. The references/links below provide some additional detail.

Wayne Hooke

ResearchBlogging.orgRussell, R. (in press). A sex difference in facial pigmentation and its exaggerationby cosmetics. Perception.

Why Cosmetics Work: More Depth To Facial Differences Between Men And Women Than Presumed. (n.d.). . Retrieved October 25, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091020153100.htm.

Richard Russell – Research. (n.d.). . Retrieved October 25, 2009, from http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/research.html.

Tonal graphic from:

Frost, P. (2009, October 1). Facial color and sex recognition. Evo and Proud. Retrieved October 25, 2009, fromhttp://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2009/10/facial-skin-color-and-sex-recognition.html.

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