Do men and women really see things differently?

Posted Dec 12, 2016 by Tim Sandle
A psychological study concludes that men and women examine faces if other people differently and absorb visual information in different ways. This suggests a gender difference in understanding visual cues.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (U.K.) have put forward the idea that men and women perceive the faces of other people differently and will react to and process facial movements in different ways. This comes from a research study.
For the study, the psychologists deployed an eye tracking device to screen some 500 participants. The people used in the study were visitors to London’s Science Museum who agreed to take part. The aim was to assess how much eye contact people felt comfortable with while staring at a face of another person displayed on a computer screen (designed to mimic a ‘Skype’-like viewing scenario). To ensure the study was representative, approximately even numbers of women and men were screened and the subject pool represented a range of different nationalities.
The results showed that women tended to gaze at the left-hand side of faces (suggesting a strong left eye bias); and that women also looked at more of the face than men. In contrast men tended to look towards the right hand side of the face.
The results were sufficiently strong for the researchers to predict the gender of the subject purely based on scanning the eyes. This process achieved a level of accuracy of 80 percent. Statistical tests for significance indicated this was not due to chance.
Discussing this in a research note, the lead researcher Dr Antoine Coutrot noted: "This study is the first demonstration of a clear gender difference in how men and women look at faces.”
While the outcomes are of interest they could also impact upon future psychological research, impacting on areas like autism diagnosis or behavioral profiling. As well as gender additional studies may extend to cultural differences.
The findings are reported to the Journal of Vision, and the research is called “Face exploration dynamics differentiate men and women.”