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What Do Eye Movement Differences in Men and Women Mean?

Study compared reactions to images of faces, bodies by gender

FRIDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Differences in eye movements suggest that men and women have different ways of looking at things, according to a new study.

Researchers had male and female volunteers view still images from films and pieces of art and found that although women made fewer eye movements than men, the women's eye movements were longer and to more varied locations.

The largest differences in eye movements were noted when the participants viewed images of people. With photos of heterosexual couples, both men and women preferred looking at the woman rather than the man, but this preference was stronger among women.

And although men were only interested in the faces of the couple, women's eyes were also drawn to the other parts of the couples' bodies, particularly that of the female, said the researchers at the University of Bristol, in England.

The findings were published Nov. 30 in the journal PLoS One.

"The study represents the most compelling evidence yet that, despite occupying the same world, the viewpoints of men and women can, at times, be very different," study leader Felix Mercer Moss, a doctoral student in the computer science department, said in a university news release.

Men and women look at different things because they interpret the world differently, the researchers suggested.

For example, the pictures preferred by the women in the study were the same ones that produced the most distinct "looking patterns." Similarly, the pictures with the most room for difference in interpretation (those with people) produced the greatest differences between where women and men looked, the study found.

When encouraged to look for "threat" in an image, men made direct eye contact with the pictured faces, while women shifted their gaze slightly downward to the nose and mouth of these faces.

More information

Visit the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information to learn more about gender differences in perception.

SOURCE: University of Bristol, news release, Nov. 30, 2012

Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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