According to previous studies, women are “inherently better” at recognising faces than men, but not if it is a Transformer!
Researchers at Vanderbilt University, Tennesse, wanted to test the hypothesis that experience played a major role in facial recognition, and wanted to challenge this theory by looking at adult reactions to kids’ toys.
Their intuition was that more men played with Transformers and more women with Barbies, which was confirmed “by surveying people about their experience playing with these toys.”
"One of the suggestions of this prior work is that women are inherently better than men at recognising faces," said Isabel Gauthier, David K. Wilson Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University, who conducted the new study with graduate student Kaitlin Ryan
"But we believe that experience plays a major role in facial recognition so we tried to come up with some way to test our hypothesis regarding this gender difference."
The Gender Differences in Recognition of Toy Faces Suggest a Contribution of Experience study was published by the journal Vision Research, and consisted of giving 295 participants a group of six images to study.
They were then presented with a series of trials that showed three images – one from the initial set and two that they hadn’t seen before.
The results of the study found that men are better at recognising cars than women but both did well with human faces.
“We also found that women had a small but statistically significant advantage at identifying Barbie faces while men had a small but statistically significant advantage in identifying Transformer faces," according to researchers.
“This is the first category of faces where men do better than women.”
Researchers also considered the possibility that men recognised Transformers more because they saw them as objects rather than faces.
"Clearly, the faces you experience as a child leave a trace in your adult memory," according to Research News at Vanderbilt.
"It is unlikely that this effect is limited to these particular toys.
“They did this with male faces, female faces, Barbie doll faces, Transformer faces and different automobiles.”