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Sense of Touch May Influence Gender Perception

SUNDAY Jan. 16, 2011 -- The sense of touch influences your perceptions of masculinity and femininity, according to a new study.

In one experiment, volunteers who were shown gender-neutral faces were more likely to judge them as male if they were squeezing a hard ball while viewing the faces and as female if they were squeezing a soft ball.

In another experiment, volunteers were shown the gender-neutral faces again and told to write their answers on pieces of paper with carbon paper underneath. Some were told to press hard to make two copies and some were told to press lightly so the carbon paper could be reused. The participants who pressed hard were more likely to say the faces were male, while those who pressed softly were more likely to say the faces were female.

The study is published in the January issue of Psychological Science.

"We were really surprised," study co-author Michael Slepian, a graduate student at Tufts University, said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science. "It's remarkable that the feeling of handling something hard or soft can influence how you visually perceive a face."

The researchers said the results suggest that knowledge of social categories such as gender is partly carried in the body, just like other types of knowledge. There may be some bodily truth to the stereotypes that men are tough and women are tender, they noted in the news release.

More information

Learn more about touch and other senses from the Nemours Foundation.

Posted: January 2011


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