Sex differences in face recognition in a clinical and non-clinical sample

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University of New Brunswick


Two articles reporting the results of studies examining sex differences on face recognition tests in a non-clinical and clinical population (i.e., patients with temporal lobe epilepsy/surgery; TLE/S) are presented. The goals were to determine whether sex differences are present on a clinical test of face recognition, and whether these results apply differently based on the hemisphere implicated in seizures. In Study 1, sex differences at the level of the participant, stimulus (i.e., male/female faces) and distractor/target were examined on the Wechsler Memory Scale (Third Edition; WMS) - Immediate and Delayed Faces Subtests and on a non-clinical test of face recognition (Experimental Face Test; EFT). Participants’ performance on the two tests was compared to determine whether conflicting results in the literature are due to sampling or test differences. No participant sex differences were found. Female faces were recognized more accurately on the EFT and WMS-Delayed, but male faces were recognized more accurately on the WMS-Immediate. Women evidenced a same-sex bias on the WMS-Immediate and EFT. Results suggest that inconsistencies in the literature may be due to sampling and test characteristics. Findings have implications for test and stimulus selection in research and for the use of clinical tests with clinical populations. Study 2 used the WMS Faces Subtests with individuals with TLE/S to determine whether sex differences exist in this group, and whether there were differences based on the hemisphere implicated in seizures. Patients with right TLE/S were more impaired than patients with left TLE/S both pre-and post-surgically, especially on distractor and female target faces. Moreover, sex of stimulus, time of assessment, and sex of patient interacted, whereby male faces were recognized more accurately than female faces by both sexes pre-surgically, but only by men post-surgically. The results suggest that the WMS-FS is sensitive to TLE/S damage pre- and post-operatively, and that considering sex and type of stimulus may provide useful information when interpreting test results. These findings have implications for test developers and for professionals working with individuals at risk of face recognition deficits.