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Our ability to recognize faces is a complex interplay of neurobiology, environment and contextual cues.
Now a study from Harvard Medical School suggests that country-to-country variations in sociocultural dynamics—notably the degree of gender equality—can yield marked differences in men's and women's ability to recognize famous faces.
Findings - Nov - Scientific - Reports - Reveal
The findings, published Nov. 29 in Scientific Reports, reveal that men living in countries with high gender equality—Scandinavian and certain Northern European nations—perform nearly as well as women in accurately identifying the faces of female celebrities. Men living in countries with lower gender equality, such as India or Pakistan for example, fare worse than both their Scandinavian peers and women in their own country in recognizing female celebrities. U.S. males, the study found, fall somewhere in between, a finding that aligns closely with United States' mid-range score on international metrics of gender equality.
The results are based on scores from web-based facial recognition tests of nearly 3,000 participants from the United States and eight other countries and suggest that sociocultural factors can shape the ability to discern individual characteristics over broad categories. They suggest that men living in countries with low gender equality are prone to cognitive "lumping" that obscures individual differences when it comes to recognizing female faces.
Study - Attention - Part - Culture - Varies
"Our study suggests that whom we pay attention to appears to be, at least in part, fueled by our culture, and how and whom we choose to categorize varies by the sociocultural context we live in." said study senior investigator Joseph DeGutis, Harvard Medical School assistant professor of psychiatry and a researcher at VA Boston Healthcare System.
"Our findings underscore how important social and cultural factors are in shaping our cognition and in influencing whom we recognize and whom we do not," said study first author Maruti Mishra, Harvard Medical School research fellow in psychiatry in DeGutis's lab....
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