Feminine Things Make You Look More Womanly, Right?

Look at the images below and then look at the faces. When does the feminine face turn masculine?

Condition 1:1

Now look at these images and then look the faces. Once again, when does the feminine face turn masculine?


You’d think that feminine things would make women look more womanly. And maybe they do in some contexts. But when researchers asked people to look at gendered objects like those above, and then judge how masculine or feminine each face appeared, the results were counter-intuitive.

Researchers found that people who looked at feminine objects thought the faces seemed more masculine, and vice versa when masculine objects appeared. Just like me.

The researchers say this happens as an “adaptation effect,” which Lisa Wade over at Sociological Images describes as,

a neurological phenomenon in which “looking at something for a long time makes you more likely to see its opposite” (source). For example if you look at a white screen after looking at a red one for a while, the white screen will appear green (red’s opposite). Or, if you look at lines moving right for a while and then look at static lines, they will appear to move left.

Apparently, our brains see both people and things as gendered — and those genders are “opposite.” But as Dr. Wade points out, “We are ‘opposite sexes,’ then, but only in our minds.”

Source: Sociological Images

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 24, 2013, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Radiant Sophia

    Just like in normal life, I have a lot of trouble determining gender. Nothing in the pictures made me think either male or female.

  2. Rohan 7 Things

    Hmmm, interesting experiment!


  3. I just see the one to the right as masculine and didn’t differentiate between the two. The face next to that is kind of androgynous.

  4. Oh that’s really interesting! The faces do look more masculine the more time spent looking at the objects I think.

  5. First two look feminine to me in each case and middle looks like it could be either one, whilst the last two are masculine for me.

  6. Sorry, but I’m confused. In each instance I see the first 3 faces as being women and the last 2 as being men. Regardless of what items are near them, I can’t NOT see them as such…it’s just how my mind sees them.

    Is this wrong?

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