EmoSex: Emotion prevails over sex in implicit judgments of faces and voices
Appraisals can be influenced by cultural beliefs and stereotypes. In line with this, past research has shown that judgments about the emotional expression of a face are influenced by the face’s sex, and vice versa that judgments about the sex of a person somewhat depend on the person’s facial expression. For example, participants associate anger with male faces, and female faces with happiness or sadness.
However, the strength and the bidirectionality of these effects remain debated. Moreover, the interplay of a stimulus’ emotion and sex remains mostly unknown in the auditory domain.
To investigate these questions, we created a novel stimulus set of 121 avatar faces and 121 human voices (available at https://bit.ly/2JkXrpy) with matched, fine-scale changes along the emotional (happy to angry) and sexual (male to female) dimensions. In a first experiment (N = 76), we found clear evidence for the mutual influence of facial emotion and sex cues on ratings, and moreover for larger implicit (task-irrelevant) effects of stimulus’ emotion than of sex.
These findings were replicated and extended in two preregistered studies—one laboratory categorization study using the same face stimuli (N = 108; https://osf.io/ve9an), and one online study with vocalizations (N = 72; https://osf.io/vhc9g).
Overall, results show that the associations of maleness-anger and femaleness-happiness exist across sensory modalities, and suggest that emotions expressed in the face and voice cannot be entirely disregarded, even when attention is mainly focused on determining stimulus’ sex.
We discuss the relevance of these findings for cognitive and neural models of face and voice processing.