Werner Sommer, Andrea Hildebrandt, Olga Kunina-Habenicht, Annekathrin Schacht and Oliver Wilhelm

Sex differences in face cognition.

Acta Psychologica

Although there is abundant evidence for female superiority in Face Cognition (FC), a number of questions regarding sex differences remain to be addressed. Here we report a reanalysis of data on the level of latent factors, modeled on the basis of an extensive test battery applied to three samples of over 800 adults in all. In independent samples the measurement structure of FC was invariant for both sexes, indicating that the measurement of the construct does not depend on the context variable sex, and investigating mean performance differences will not be biased by measurement issues—a neglected aspect in previous studies. We confirmed female superiority for face perception (FP) and face memory (FM). For the first time we could show that these sex differences prevailed after accounting for sex differences in broadly measured general cognitive functioning and in object perception. Across adult age, sex differences in FM increased due to the rapid decline of this ability in men, whereas performance in women remained stable across adult age. Self-reported social involvement and things-oriented activities moderated sex-differences in FM. Results show that sex differences are salient at the level of specific FC constructs and that they can be partially explained by social involvement.