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Men and Women Interpret Visual World Differently: Study

Update Date: Dec 01, 2012 03:08 AM EST

There is no doubt about the fact that men and women are very different in their nature. Be it about taking care of a child or looking after the house, both sexes have their own ways. A new research suggests that the possible reason for the differences in them lies in the fact that they perceive the world differently.

A research by scientists from the University of Bristol indicates that men and women explore the visual world differently. For their study, the researchers examined the eye movements of men and women while looking at still images from films and pieces of art, Medical Xpress reported.

The study revealed that though women made fewer eye movements than men, when they did, it lasted longer and to more varied locations. These differences were apparently largest while viewing the images of people.

While looking at the pictures of heterosexual couples, it was found that the gaze of both men and women went toward the female figure rather than the male. However, women apparently had this preference stronger than men. Also, while men mainly looked at the faces of the people in the pictures, women tended to look at the rest of the bodies especially of the female figure.

"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. Our findings have important implications for both past and future eye movement research together with future technological applications," Felix Mercer Moss, PhD student in the Department of Computer Science who led the study, said.

The report says that eye movements are a tool with which people collect visual information around them and it colors their perception of the world. Thus, with different interpretations of the world, people seek  different information and it consequently has an impact on the places they look. The researchers suggest that men and women look at different things because their interpretation of the world is different from each other.

Apart from this, another finding that may indicate a perceptual sex difference, in particular - women's increased sensitivity to threat . Usually, when we look at an image, our gaze is drawn toward the most informative regions of it while the areas that possibly carry threat or danger, we look away from it.

During this experiment, it was seen that while men made direct eye contact with faces in the pictures; especially when primed to look for threat, women averted their gaze downward slightly toward the nose and mouth of these faces, the report said.

According to researchers, this could be due to the fact that women are more sensitive to the negative consequences of making direct eye contact and thus shift their gaze.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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