He throws like a girl (but only when he's sad): emotion affects sex-decoding of biological motion displays.

Kerri Johnson, Lawrie McKay, Frank Pollick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)


Gender stereotypes have been implicated in sex-typed perceptions of facial emotion. Such interpretations were recently called into question because facial cues of emotion are confounded with sexually dimorphic facial cues. Here we examine the role of visual cues and gender stereotypes in perceptions of biological motion displays, thus overcoming the morphological confounding inherent in facial displays. In four studies, participants’ judgments revealed gender stereotyping. Observers accurately perceived emotion from biological motion displays (Study 1), and this affected sex categorizations. Angry displays were overwhelmingly judged to be men; sad displays were judged to be women (Studies 2–4). Moreover, this pattern remained strong when stimuli were equated for velocity (Study 3). We argue that these results were obtained because perceivers applied gender stereotypes of emotion to infer sex category (Study 4). Implications for both vision sciences and social psychology are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-280
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date23 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • Point-light display
  • Biological motion
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Sex perception
  • Emotion perception

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