Communicator (communicator) wrote,

You'll have someone's eye out

An article on the lessons for web page design arising from those studies of how people's eyes move about. You know the kind of thing I mean - a scanner watches the movement of the eyeballs, and the software works out which bit of the screen is grabbing their attention. Of interest to those in the business.

So why has this article got so much bloggy attention this week? Aha. Down the bottom is a section on photos, with an example. There's a picture of a baseball player, but this is just an example of what they say is a widespread phenomenon.

When photos do contain people related to the task at hand, or the content users are exploring, they do get fixations. However, gender makes a distinct difference on what parts of the photo are stared at the longest. Take a look at the hotspot below.

Although both men and women look at the image of George Brett when directed to find out information about his sport and position, men tend to focus on private anatomy as well as the face. For the women, the face is the only place they viewed.

Coyne adds that this difference doesn’t just occur with images of people. Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site.

Do I think this is evidence that men are more sexually interested in penises than women are? No. I've read a lot of suggested explanations and the two that seem most likely to me are that it is male primate dominance behaviour (in other words, checking out the potential rival) or that everyone is interested in genitals (at a back-brain level) but women have learned to suppress that instinct when being observed (or, for some women, suppress it at all times).

I think there are good and bad aspects to this. I think sometimes men fail to 'model' the feelings of a person they are interacting with (so, they stare at your breasts or crotch, without modelling in their heads how you feel about it) but on the other hand I think some women get neurotic about treating genitals as icky. My friend the midwife says that it's a problem with some women in labour that they won't look or touch or talk about 'down there' even when it's crucial.

As usual, I tend to favour the second explanation (learned behaviour) and to wonder whether sex differences aren't quite as pronounced as this study may show.

Pandagon discussion here.
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