When you look into someone's face, you probably take a split second to figure out what gender they are. Now cognitive scientist Michael Tarr has determined one of the main ways your brain decides "male" or "female" - it's by analyzing the color of the person's skin. Men's faces tend to be redder, and women's are greener.
Tarr and his team examined how test subjects identified the gender of Caucasian faces by taking 200 pictures of men and women in the same position, under the same lighting conditions. They blurred the faces together and pixelated them (like in the image above). Then they asked their subjects to figure out whether an essentially genderless face was male or female. Overwhelmingly, subjects would guess male if the face had more red in it, and female if it had more green.
So what's the point?
A statement from Brown University, where Tarr did his research, explains:
Across this and related studies, Tarr has determined that observers use the color of a face when trying to identify its gender . . . The finding has important implications in cognitive science research, such as the study of face perception. But the information also has a number of potential industry or consumer applications in areas such as facial recognition technology, advertising, and studies of how and why women apply makeup.
So basically his research is going to help companies that sell makeup to white women? That doesn't sound like a big breakthrough until you consider that it may help resolve the mystery of why anybody would wear green eyeshadow.
Structure and Color in Face Recognition [via Tarr Lab]