What is the word for auto-technique humans use to find out in a face to face encounter whether a person is male or a female human being by their facial appearance or body shape (masculine and feminine features/cues to make the distinction between males and females).

Elaboration: Such as female cheeks tend to be more prominent than male cheeks which may appear more angular and sharper the more the younger. Even featured lips, forehead, chin, nose, jaw, cheekbones, skin, and eyes distinguish the difference.

  • I would call it "Pategorization". – Hot Licks Feb 10 at 19:17
  • 1
    Unreliable. – Greybeard Feb 10 at 20:30
  • @Cascabel This study identifies several features that are independent of culture (such as hair style or clothing) and concludes that adults can identify males vs. female faces 97+ percent of the time. – Xanne Feb 11 at 0:45


physiognomy, n.

I. The study of appearance.

1. a. The study of the features of the face, or of the form of the body generally, as being supposedly indicative of character; the art of judging character from such study.

1853 C. Brontë Villette I. vii. 125 I want your opinion. We know your skill in physiognomy... Read that countenance.

1915 W. S. Maugham Of Human Bondage xxvi. 107 Fräulein Anna took an interest in physiognomy and she made Philip notice afterwards how finely shaped was his skull, and how weak was the lower part of his face.


The general term used in research on the subject is recognition, which is modified to specify the kind of recognition performed: facial recognition, gender recognition (with context used to make clear that they are talking about faces), and facial gender recognition. Here are several examples from titles of articles:

In some articles, categorization or classification are used alongside recognition, like in Wild et al., "Recognition and Sex Categorization of Adults' and Children's Faces: Examining Performance in the Absence of Sex-Stereotyped Cues," *Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 77 (2000).

While Ngram should be taken with a grain of salt, the illustration below shows that gender recognition outpaces near alternatives (sex recognition, gender categorization, sex categorization):

enter image description here


Phenotypic analysis, is the scientific term for analysing the physical characteristics of a human or non-human being and reaching a conclusion about their gender, among other things. Nowadays, however, appearances are often deceptive.

  • phenotype definition - "A phenotype is the observable expression of an individual's genotype. Thus, while genotypes affect proteins, cells, and biological pathways, phenotypes are most readily observed as appearances."
  • "A phenotype is defined as an observable trait, either directly visible, such as hair color or presence of a disease."

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.