People attribute humanness to men and women differently based on their facial appearance

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2022 Aug;123(2):400-422. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000364. Epub 2021 Jun 24.


Recognizing others' humanity is fundamental to how people think about and treat each other. People often ascribe greater humanness to groups that they socially value, but do they also systematically ascribe social value to different individuals? Here, we tested whether people (de)humanize individuals based on social traits inferred from their facial appearance, focusing on attractiveness and intelligence. Across five studies, less attractive and less intelligent-looking individuals seemed less human, but this varied by target gender: Attractiveness better predicted humanness attributions to women whereas perceived intelligence better predicted humanness attributions to men (Study 1). This difference seems to stem from gender stereotypes (preregistered Studies 2 and 3) and even extends to attributions of children's humanness (preregistered Study 4). Moreover, this gender difference leads to biases in moral treatment that confer more value to the lives of attractive women and intelligent-looking men (preregistered Study 5). These data help to explain how interpersonal judgments of individuals interact with intergroup biases to promote gender-based discrimination, providing greater nuance to the mechanisms and outcomes of dehumanization. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Sexism
  • Social Perception*