The way women look at things may differ significantly from how men see. Researchers have found that women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways.
“This study is the first demonstration of a clear gender difference in how men and women look at faces,” said lead author Antoine Coutrot from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
The study suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues.
“There are numerous claims in popular culture that women and men look at things differently – this is the first demonstration, using eye tracking, to support this claim,” co-author Isabelle Mareschal from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences added.
The researchers used an eye tracking device on almost 500 participants over a five-week period to monitor and judge how much eye contact they felt comfortable with while looking at a face on a computer screen.
They found that women looked more at the left-hand side of faces and had a strong left eye bias, but that they also explored the face much more than men.
The team observed that it was possible to tell the gender of the participant based on the scanning pattern of how they looked at the face with nearly 80 per cent accuracy.
Given the very large sample size the researchers suggested that this was not due to chance.
“We are able to establish the gender of the participant based on how they scan the actors’ face, and can eliminate that it wasn’t based on the culture of the participant as nearly 60 nationalities have been tested.
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“We can also eliminate any other observable characteristics like perceived attractiveness or trustworthiness,” Coutrot noted.
The findings, published in the Journal of Vision, suggest the gender difference in scanning visual information might impact many research fields, such as autism diagnosis or even everyday behaviours like watching a movie or looking at the road while driving.