Faces can appear male or female depending on where they are in our field of view, a study has shown.
Scientists discovered that identical facial features might be judged male when they are viewed in one part of our field of view, but thought of as female in another location.
The surprising discovery is believed to be the result of ‘sampling bias’ in the brain, the same glitch that can skew statistical surveys.
And the findings challenge a longstanding belief of neuroscientists — that how the brain sees an object should not depend on where the object is located relative to the observer.
In the real world the effect is not noticed because there are so many other gender clues, such as hair and clothing.
But the relatively small grouping of neurons in the brain which analyse different parts of a scene can mislead us into classifying a face as a male or female without these extra indicators.
And experiments using computer-generated faces stripped of all other gender-identifying features showed how hard the brain finds it to tell sexes apart