Flexibility in Continuous Judgments of Gender/Sex and Race

S. Atwood, Dominic J. Gibson, Sofía Briones Ramírez, Kristina R. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across six preregistered studies (N = 1,292; recruited from university subject pools and Prolific Academic), we investigate how face perception along the dimensions of gender/sex and race can vary based on immediate contextual information as well as personal experience. In Studies 1a and 1b, we find that when placing stimuli along a continuum from male to female, cisgender participants sort prototypical gender/sex faces in a bimodal fashion and show less consensus and greater error when placing faces of intermediate gender/sex. We replicate and extend these findings to race in Study 2. In Study 3, we test whether sorting patterns can be influenced by preexisting experiences, and find evidence that transgender/nonbinary participants show less error than cisgender heterosexual participants when sorting intermediary faces. Finally, in Studies 4 and 5, we test whether cisgender participants’ judgments of intermediary faces along the continuum are influenced by the specific circumstances under which they are asked to sort. Here, we find that changing the sorting framework to include a third category resulted in less error when placing intermediary faces along the continuum than when participants were provided with only two category labels or two categories and a line at the midpoint, suggesting that new perceptual categories introduced with minimal training can be adopted quickly and successfully in a perceptual task. These data suggest that both long-term life experiences and quick experimental interventions can shape how we think about gender/sex and race.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


  • categorization
  • face perception
  • gender/sex
  • race
  • social cognition


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