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

Susan G. Wardle, Louise Ewing, George L. Malcolm, Sanika Paranjape, Chris I. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105398
Early online date13 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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