Person (mis)perception: Functionally biased sex categorization of bodies

Kerri L. Johnson, Masumi Iida, Louis G. Tassinary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Social perception is among the most important tasks that occur in daily life, and perceivers readily appreciate the social affordances of others. Here, we demonstrate that sex categorizations are functionally biased towards a male percept. Perceivers judged body shapes that varied in waist-to-hip ratio to be men if they were not, in reality, exclusive to women, and male categorizations occurred more quickly than female categorizations (studies 1 and 4). This pattern was corroborated when participants identified the average body shapes of men and women (study 2) and when we assessed participants' cognitive representations (study 3). Moreover, these tendencies were modulated by emotion context (study 4). Thus, male categorizations occurred readily and rapidly, demonstrating a pronounced categorization bias and temporal advantage for male judgements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4982-4989
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1749
StatePublished - 2012


  • Body perception
  • Person perception
  • Sex categorization
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Waist-to-hip ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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