Don’t Underestimate Contrast
Take a look at the two faces below. You can click on the photo to see a slightly larger version if you want. Now decide which one is female and which one male.
Did you decide? I would bet that you chose the left one as female, and the right one as male. Am I correct?
Now let me tell you the correct answer…
The correct answer is…neither! It turns out both faces were artificially created to look androginous, and both have the exact same features! The only difference between them is that the one on the left has much higher contrast than the one on the right. Turns out one of the ways our inner brain decides on the sex of a face is to judge its contrast.
One can imagine that several hundred thousand years ago, when hominids were evolving towards human, the males likely spent much of their time outdoors hunting while the females stayed with the young in a sheltered area, away from the wind and Sun. Males would tan and become a uniform colour, while the females, better protected from the Sun, would remain paler in the skin, making lips, eyebrows, and eyes seem darker. I find this fascinating.
The image above was created by Richard Russell, who submitted it to the 2009 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest and won 3rd prize. This competition is organised yearly by the Neural Correlate Society.