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Same-gender distractors are not so easy to reject : ERP evidence of gender categorization.

Rakic, Tamara and Steffens, Melanie C. and Wiese, Holger (2018) 'Same-gender distractors are not so easy to reject : ERP evidence of gender categorization.', Cognitive, affective, & behavioral neuroscience., 18 (5). pp. 825-836.


Social categorization appears to be an automatic process that occurs during person perception. Understanding social categorization better is important because mere categorization can lead to stereotype activation and, in turn, to discrimination. In the present study we used a novel approach to examine event-related potentials (ERPs) of gender categorization in the “Who said what?” memory paradigm, thus allowing for a more in-depth understanding of the specific mechanisms underlying identity versus categorization processing. After observing video clips showing a “discussion” among female and male targets, participants were shown individual statements, each accompanied by one of the discussants’ faces. While we measured ERPs, participants had to decide whether or not a given statement had previously been made by the person with the accompanying face. In same-person trials, statements were paired with the correct person, whereas in the distractor trials, either a same-gender or a different-gender distractor was shown. As expected, participants were able to reject different-gender distractors faster than same-gender distractors, and they were more likely to falsely choose yes for a same-gender than for a different-gender distractor. Both findings indicate gender-based categorization. ERPs, analyzed in a 300- to 400-ms time window at occipito-temporal channels, indicated more negative amplitudes for yes responses both for the same person and for same-gender distractors, relative to different-gender distractors. Overall, these results show gender-based categorization even when the task was to assess the identifying information in a gender-neutral context. These findings are interpreted as showing that gender categorization occurs automatically during person perception, but later than race- or age-based categorization.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Date accepted:21 April 2018
Date deposited:09 May 2018
Date of first online publication:07 May 2018
Date first made open access:No date available

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