A study has discovered every person has a “signature” way of looking at things.
It’s long been contended that men and women have different perspectives on the world, be it from nature or the societies and cultures their people. A recent study suggests that the ability to “see the world” isn’t just based on psychological or sociological factors. Men and women actually visualize what they observe in different manners.
In November 2016, a study was published in the Journal of Vision by biologists at Queen Mary University of London that shows eye contact and eye scanning are both so distinct between men and women that they were able to determine the subject’s sex correctly 80% of the time based just on those actions.
In the study, 400 subjects participated in sessions of 15 minutes each, staring at an actor or actress’s face. The researchers would then observe the movement patterns, eye contact, and scanning techniques used by the subjects. Upon the conclusion of their observations, the differences between the sexes were abundantly clear.
Women tended to focus on the left side of the face presented to them and tended to rely far more on their left eye, especially when looking at a woman’s face. They were also more likely to scan the entirety of the face than men were.
This interesting (and a little disturbing, out of context) graphic shows how the visualization tendencies prevail among men and women:
Image via Journal of Vision.
While the study offers lots of new data to analyze, even the researchers are left with more questions than answers at this point. The study’s lead author, Dr. Antoine Coutrotto, told Huffington Post, “Since the right hemisphere is fed by the left visual field, this could explain why people are biased toward the left when looking at faces. Then, why this bias is even stronger for women? The truth is we don’t really know yet.”
Despite the new unknowns, the strides made with this study are already profoundly important. Until now, scientists believed that men and women followed a universally consistent method of face exploration. Now, it’s clear that every person has their very own “signature” way of evaluating a face.
While this is fascinating information on its own, the applications of this new eye movement data can extend to diagnosing and treating conditions such as ADHD and autism as well.
“A very promising line of studies is gaze-based disease screening,” Coutrout said. “Some disorders, like dementia or autism, lead to quantifiable alterations of eye movement behavior. Hence, gaze can be used as an objective, inexpensive and rapid tool for disease screening.”
On a similar note, some people are completely incapable of recognizing or remembering faces at all. It’s a condition known as facial blindness, and you can read more about the fascinating condition here.