Gender and Visibility of Sexual Cues Influence Eye Movements While Viewing Faces and Bodies

Brain Research Unit, O.V. Lounasmaa Laboratory, School of Science, Aalto University, 00076, Espoo, Finland, .
Archives of Sexual Behavior (Impact Factor: 3.53). 03/2012; 41(6). DOI: 10.1007/s10508-012-9911-0
Source: PubMed


Faces and bodies convey important information for the identification of potential sexual partners, yet clothing typically covers many of the bodily cues relevant for mating and reproduction. In this eye tracking study, we assessed how men and women viewed nude and clothed, same and opposite gender human figures. We found that participants inspected the nude bodies more thoroughly. First fixations landed almost always on the face, but were subsequently followed by viewing of the chest and pelvic regions. When viewing nude images, fixations were biased away from the face towards the chest and pelvic regions. Fixating these regions was also associated with elevated physiological arousal. Overall, men spent more time looking at female than male stimuli, whereas women looked equally long at male and female stimuli. In comparison to women, men spent relatively more time looking at the chests of nude female stimuli whereas women spent more time looking at the pelvic/genital region of male stimuli. We propose that the augmented and gender-contingent visual scanning of nude bodies reflects selective engagement of the visual attention circuits upon perception of signals relevant to choosing a sexual partner, which supports mating and reproduction.

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    • "attractiveness are correlated with ratings of their body-only attractiveness, but the correlations are just moderate in magnitude (Peters et al., 2007; Thornhill & Grammer, 1999), which suggests that cues from the face and cues from the body are not entirely redundant. Second, findings from studies that ask men to evaluate women's faces and bodies imply that female faces andbodies provide non-redundant information.For example, in eye-tracking studies, men attend not just to women's faces but also to their breasts and waist-hip area (Dixson et al., 2011a); in fact, when men view nude images of women, their attention is biased away from the face and toward the chest and pelvic regions (Nummenmaa et al., 2012). Moreover, when men consider women in the context of short-term relationships, for which current fertility is of primary importance, they attend more to women's bodies than when they consider women in the context of a long-term relationship (Confer et al., 2010; Lu & Chang, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Women's faces and bodies are both thought to provide cues to women's age, health, fertility, and personality. To gain a stronger understanding of how these cues are utilized, we investigated the degree to which ratings of women's faces and bodies independently predicted ratings of women's full-body attractiveness. Women came into the lab not knowing they would be photographed. In Study 1 (N = 84), we photographed them in their street clothes; in Study 2 (N = 74), we photographed women in a solid-colored two-piece swimsuit that revealed their body shape, body size, and breast size. We cropped each woman's original photo into an additional face-only photo and body-only photo; then, independent sets of raters judged women's pictures. When dressed in their original clothes, women's face-only ratings were better independent predictors of full-body attractiveness ratings than were their body-only ratings. When cues displayed in women's bodies were made conspicuous by swimsuits, ratings of faces and bodies were similarly strong predictors of full-body attractiveness ratings. Moreover, women's body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio were tied to ratings of women's body attractiveness, with waist-to-hip ratio more important among women wearing swimsuits than among women wearing their original clothes. These results suggest that perceivers attend to cues of women's health, fertility, and personality to the extent that they are visible.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Archives of Sexual Behavior
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    • "An analysis of both real-life and would-be scenarios supported our prediction that the color red is preferred on the upper parts of bodies, although there is not a restriction for this preference among women. These findings are consistent with the overall attractiveness of human bodies; men looking at the body of a woman primarily gaze at a woman's face and chest (Hewig et al. 2008; Nummenmaa et al. 2012), and the upper parts seem to be most attractive for men. From an evolutionary perspective, this preference may be driven by bipedal locomotion in humans and a shift from primary attraction on the part of males to female genitalia (i.e. the lower parts of bodies) to permanent breasts (i.e. the upper parts of bodies) (Morris 1967). "
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    ABSTRACT: Among certain non-human primates, the red-colored genitalia of females are a sexual ornament and attract males. The preference for red clothes among women is at times explained as being a parallel. We used here a within-individual design to investigate the signaling role of the color red with a sample of Slovak participants. As expected, women preferred red clothing both in real-life and would-be situations more than men. The pref- erence for red (but not for other colors) in mating game scenarios was only significant for women, but not for men. A preference for the color red was shown in particular for clothes on the upper parts of the participants’ bodies, irrespective of gender. Women who were actually involved in a romantic sexual relationship had a preference for red in would-be situations more than single women, although the menstrual cycle, the total number of lifetime sexual partners, and self-perceived attractiveness were not associated with the preference for the color red. Our results support the sexual signaling hypothesis which suggests that women use the color red to attract potential mates in a similar way as non-human primates.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Ethology
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    • "The use of back-posed stimuli allowed us to quantify how distinct components of physique capture visual attention while eliminating the effects of the face and genitalia on attention (Nummenmaa et al., 2012). While this approach allowed us to isolate the role of body regions in visual assessments of men's physical attractiveness, the face and body may convey important but separate information regarding mate quality and independently contribute to judgments about the attractiveness of an individual (Peters, Rhodes, & Simmons, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Judging physical attractiveness involves sight, touch, sound and smells. Where visual judgments are concerned, attentional processes may have evolved to prioritize sex-typical traits that reflect cues signaling direct or indirect (i.e. genetic) benefits. Behavioral techniques that measure response times or eye movements provide a powerful test of this assumption by directly assessing how attractiveness influences the deployment of attention. We used eye-tracking to characterize women’s visual attention to men’s back-posed bodies, which varied in overall fat and muscle distribution, while they judged the potential of each model for a short- or long-term relationship. We hypothesized that when judging male bodily attractiveness women would focus more on the upper body musculature of all somatotypes, as it is a signal of metabolic health, immunocompetence and underlying endocrine function. Results showed that mesomorphs (muscular men) received the highest attractiveness ratings, followed by ectomorphs (lean men) and endomorphs (heavily-set men). For eye movements, attention was evenly distributed to the upper and lower back of both ectomorphs and mesomorphs. In contrast, for endomorphs the lower back, including the waist, captured more attention over the viewing period. These patterns in visual attention were evident in the first second of viewing, suggesting that body composition is identified early in viewing and guides attention to body regions that provide salient biological information during judgments of men’s bodily attractiveness.
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