Stereotypes and Structure in the Interaction between Facial Emotional Expression and Sex Characteristics

Belinda M. Craig*, Anthony J. Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: A significant body of work has now amassed investigating the interaction between facial cues of sex and emotional expression. For instance, studies have found that male/more masculine faces are perceived more easily as angry, while female/more feminine faces are perceived more easily as happy. Two key mechanisms have been proposed to explain this interaction: a visual-structural account, where the interaction emerges due to physical overlap between facial cues of sex and emotion, and a stereotype based account, where the interaction is driven by associations between men and women, and particular emotions. Previous work often remains silent in regard to the mechanism/s underlying this interaction. This article aims to provide an up-to-date review of the literature as this may provide insight into whether facial structure, stereotypes, or a combination of both mechanisms explains the interaction between sex and emotion in face perception. 

Method: The review brings together research on the interaction between emotional expression and sex cues using a range of different methods. 

Results: The existing literature suggests that unique influences of both structural overlap and stereotypes can be observed in circumstances where the influence of one mechanism is reduced or controlled. Studies sensitive to detecting both mechanisms have provided evidence that both can concurrently act to contribute to the interaction between sex and emotion. 

Conclusion: These results are consistent with a role of selection in the physical appearance of facial signals of sex and particular emotional expressions and/or the cognitive structures involved in recognizing sex and emotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-235
Number of pages24
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


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