Thursday, March 15, 2012

Men, Women, and Eyetracking

Have a look at the photos below for five seconds or so. We'll come back to them later.


Scientists have used eyetracking technology to see where people look in a photo. One question they have asked is whether men and women look at other people in the same way.

In one experiment, groups of men and women were asked to look at the picture of baseball player George Brett. 

The eyetracking heatmap shows that both men and women spent time looking at the head, but men also looked at the crotch. This isn't necessarily a sign of sexual attraction. They could be sizing up the competition or identifying with him.

According to Nielsen and Coyne, men also tend to look more at private parts of animals when shown American Kennel Club photos.

Here are the results of thirty men and thirty women looking without prompting at that first pair of photos.

The company Think Eye Tracking observes from the results:

1. Men check out other men, especially their "assets."
2. Women checked out his wedding ring.
3. Guys don't seem to care about the woman's marital status, but looked at her face, breasts, and stomach.
4. If you ask people to self-report where they looked, they tend not to be very honest or they're just not consciously aware.
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Read more:
Bathing Suit Photo Study (Think Eye Tracking)
Online Journalism Review
Studio Moh
Related GurneyJourney posts
Do Artists See Differently?
Dog cam: Where do dogs and chimps look?

25 comments:

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Interesting! e

Ahms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ahms said...

I'm wondering how basic contrast/color also plays into it. IE., I looked at the shadow under the man's head first before anything else.

It's interesting to see what most men and women *don't* look at, especially on the women's side. Not even a blip down *there*! It sort of gives the message about how a lot of us guys place our egos into things that we think/hope others care about (well, both genders do that, really).

Super Villain said...

this post and that mans bikini make me uncomfortable

Markus Erdt said...

Interesting as always. I was wondering if you could say a few things about building up depth. Not so much in a city picture, but somewhere, where it is much more mixed up, like in a thick forest or somewhere wide open, like a desert dune.

Celeste Bergin said...

.....No way I looked for his wedding ring. (Maybe in the study his jewelry was more apparent), but even then I'd look at this guy's admirable abs first and Heid Montag's pretty face (pre-surgeries) 2nd. Fascinating post!

MimiTabby said...

hahahhahahaha
that's great. I loved it. Thanks for sharing.

who knew!


Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

etc, etc said...

The man appears to be wearing a pink panty and checking himself out. From the very start I feel like I am thrown off from my normal observation patterns by an uncomfortable feeling.

Terry said...

Not being a bisexual, I can't really claim total objectivity (I'm a straight female), but to me, there is not attractiveness-equivalency to the two people from the get-go. As etc-etc pointed out, the guy is checking himself out so 1) self-absorbed and 2) invisible face, which is the first thing *I* look at. Also, pink Speedo? Really? Who picked those pictures? LOL

I really question the scientific validity of their results. And how much they get out of the lab.

Terry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Gurney said...

Terry, you raise some great points. The experimenters should have chosen a more neutral pose and swimsuit color for the guy.

One has to be really careful about inferring what people were thinking from the eyetracking data.
Were they looking at the shape of the swimsuit, the color of the swimsuit, or the bulge under the swimsuit? It would take more lines of data (such as fMRI scans) to jump to such a conclusion.

One thing I found interesting was that no one (man or woman) looked at the guy's right hand. From a painter's point of view, I have to wonder: why bother rendering the hand with a lot of detail if no one looks at it?

etc, etc said...

Or maybe he's hanging his head in shame because he realized his man card has just been revoked!

mrussoart said...

I find curious why no one looked at the man's right hand.

J. R. Stremikis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. R. Stremikis said...

@james:
since the experimenters are based in the UK, one would suspect the photos are from that region. Not to defend this bloke's color choice, but I suspect that pink/fuchsia Speedos are more the norm on British or European beaches than in these parts - so, would he even get a second look over there? yes, over here, he'll be teased.
is he really checking himself out?
he's actually gazing at the beach, perhaps looking at the sand or seashells.

Anonymous said...

I want to see them test more combinations of images before accepting any of their conclusions.

I'm a guy, so the first real conscious conclusion once I'd summarily processed the images is, beach-goers paired together, people in swimwear ah I see what they're trying to do, I see what they're trying to get me to prove.

Going back one more step, the second thing I saw a chick-in-a-bikini that looks like 99% of girls we're shown in a bikini, nothing interestingly new, and for me personally shameful to dwell upon her for what I've become accustomed to such images purpose which is to show off her beauty and sexuality (typically to sell something to me) at the cost of my desires for romantic partner (that's something that someone can latch onto but I won't be responding to such a debate on this thread). I'm just trying to show what kind of logic there is in the mere milliseconds of processing an image.

Whereas really what I saw first was the biggest block of solid high saturation colour, the guy's pants. Also drawn to it because it appears he's looking at them, so you're wondering what he's looking at? It has a far more interesting story to try to figure out and is an image I'd dwell on longer (seconds still) trying to understand that.

I think you're kind of right though James that there's not much point rendering great detail where people aren't going to look. We just need to know there's an hand there, as are any of it's details (which to me are visual messages) helping tell the story of the image better?

I think it's also what's the image used for. If it's selling me swimwear then who cares about those details whereas it does if it's hanging in a gallery or your Dinotopia books where as a child I looked at everything, fawning over pages for what felt like an age.

Anonymous said...

It could be that no one looks at the guy's right hand because of the composition of the picture, or the presence of the shiny, sparkly watch. I wonder what the result might be if the mirror image of the picture is shown, with the watch photoshopped out.

raphael said...

im always worried reading postulates like the bit about self-reporting being dishonest.

i am right with you there, james:
what the study measured was the time and place the physical eyeball's lens was pointed at. seeing, though, is a question of consciousness, not of eyeball-pointing.
we could, for example, have our eyeballs pointed at just the right spot in a piece of greenery all day, without seeing the camouflaged person standing in there. if we just "got it" after having our eyes pointed at that very spot for x minutes, we still wont have seen the person for all the minutes of eye focus rest, but just the last few seconds.

seeing is a question of the objects in the consciousness only. (therefore, knowledge influenced seeing: i see a damn annoying fly, the biologist sees a drosophila whateveris. we literally dont see the same thing. gladly, these things are usually easily manageable.)

to give the tracking the authority to say "haha, you dishonest fellow/lass! YOU say you didnt look at his crotch, but we KNOW you really did." is not only bad science, but also the stuff good headlines, and a degree in higher bullshit is made of.

unfortunately, fmri pictures wont bring much illumination to the matter either. same problem of misattributed authority.

those findings are always _useful_. but only that. they are no authority over reality, and cant be, for the very way their method that makes them so useful works. science theory 101, really.

(the best example for us painter dudes is color theories: no arguing that color theories based on newton are the ones we use to facilitate our paint mixing, because they provide us with a continually refinable framework for ordering the world. and we will gladly discard every old concept once a new, better-working one comes around.

to tell _what_color_is_, though, newton just falls flat on his face. no way around goethe and the theories he influenced, there. color happens in consciousness. nowhere else. thats darn useless for mixing paint, but thats what color is: a sensation. sensations of things are always consciousness of said thing.)

or, favorite husserl quote: theories have to conform to reality, not reality to theories.

sorry for the wall fo text. :(

Groo said...

"...I suspect that pink/fuchsia Speedos are more the norm on British or European beaches than in these parts..." They are not the norm in Europe. I agree with what Terry and various anonymous posters said.

Lee Smith said...

My eye-tracking: Noticed some half-naked man wearing something pink. In horror, I immediately focused all attention on the safety and comfort of the woman's breasts. :P

dzart said...

Informative and very amusing, haha!

mirana said...

My husband pointed out something I hadn't noticed: That the women checked out the areas of the woman where she had bones protruding. The hip bone, the ribs, etc. If men are sizing up the competition's crotch, then are women doing the same about a woman's perceived faults?

For our test, I looked at the man's chest and arms, then the boobs and tummy of the woman. He said he immediately looked at the man's crotch and woman's chest too. We match up pretty well in our "remembered" eye tracking. I didn't even think about looking at his crotch, even though it was pink and HE was looking at it!

Adam J. Thaxton said...

Hm. I wonder how much of that is cultural, too. I wonder if you did the same experiment with several cultures that had different or even reversed sexual or gender tendencies, what might happen. Also noted is that the male photo's face isn't prominently displayed.

Goldeen said...

I wonder how this graph would look if they got a whole bunch of visual artists to take the test. Myself, I found I was looking at the dude's legs a lot, because I found the pose and the cloth of his pants interesting.

Mark vanderVinne said...

Okay...I know I'm late to this.

I wanted to raise a concern with the idea of the woman looking at the ring. I have watched the Discovery Channel show "The Science of Sex Appeal" and I remember an episode where they talked about how the status of a man made them more appealing to a woman. If they showed a picture of a man with a name, title and dollar figure, then showed them the same man with a different, higher title and salary, the woman immediately found him more attractive.

I wonder if she was checking out the ring at all, or if she was checking out his watch. Tag Heuer or Timex?

Not the exact link to the aforementioned, but the idea is the same.

http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/science-of-sex-appeal-women-are-choosier.html