When people look at a face they don't just judge a person in terms of gender or race but rather they judge it on a more complex level, says a new study.

Researchers used techniques from cognitive psychology and neuroscience to find out how people process facial information.

The new study design differed from the other studies done on the subject. Earlier studies relied on the assumption that people first categorize a person on the basis of gender, race and age. But, the new study says that people look at a face in many ways and that they start categorizing people based on coarse information (gender, age, race) as well as finer details of the person.

According to researchers, people use stereotypes to be able to process a face faster. But sometimes this stereotype breaks and people start reading a face in different manner. For example seeing a person engaged in a game that requires high levels if intellectual ability that is not commonly associated with the person's race requires us to forget the stereotype and process information about this new person from scratch.

"How we perceive faces is not just a reflection of what's in those faces. We are not objective; we bring our current goals and past knowledge to every new encounter. And this happens really quickly - within a couple of hundred milliseconds of seeing the face," Dr. Kimberly Quinn, at the University of Birmingham and an author of the study.