Skip to main content
Research Article

Women’s Own-Gender Bias in Face Recognition Memory

The Role of Attention at Encoding

Published Online:

Women remember more female than male faces, whereas men do not seem to display an own-gender bias in face recognition memory. Why women remember female faces to a greater extent than male faces is unclear; one proposition is that women attend more to and thereby process female faces more effortfully than male faces during encoding. A manipulation that distracts attention and reduces effortful processing may therefore decrease women’s own-gender bias by reducing memory for female faces relative to male faces. In three separate experiments, women and men encoded female and male faces for later recognition in full attention and divided attention conditions. Results consistently showed that women, in contrast to men, displayed a reliable own-gender bias. Importantly, the magnitude of women’s own-gender bias was not reduced in divided attention conditions, indicating that it is not a result of effortful processing of female faces. We suggest these results reflect that women have greater perceptual expertise for female faces, facilitating recognition memory.