We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Dr Holger Wiese

Rakic, Tamara, Steffens, Melanie C. & Wiese, Holger (2018). Same-gender distractors are not so easy to reject: ERP evidence of gender categorization. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 18(5): 825-836.

Author(s) from Durham


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.