Perceptual Simulation in Gender Categorization: Associations Between Gender, Vertical Height, and Spatial Size

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 25;9(2):e89768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089768. eCollection 2014.


The current studies extend perceptual symbol systems theory to the processing of gender categorization by revealing that gender categorization recruits perceptual simulations of spatial height and size dimensions. In study 1, categorization of male faces were faster when the faces were in the "up" (i.e., higher on the vertical axis) rather than the "down" (i.e., lower on the vertical axis) position and vice versa for female face categorization. Study 2 found that responses to male names depicted in larger font were faster than male names depicted in smaller font, whereas opposite response patterns were given for female names. Study 3 confirmed that the effect in Study 2 was not due to metaphoric relationships between gender and social power. Together, these findings suggest that representation of gender (social categorization) also involves processes of perceptual simulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Symbolism

Grant support

This research was supported by Projects of Enhancing Research Ability of Youth Teachers of Northwest Normal University (2013). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.