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Eye Tracking: Emotions and the Male / Female Link

Eye Tracking: Emotions and the Male / Female LinkAnother recent eye tracking – related study examined sex and facial expressions. Hold on, this isn’t as scandalous in nature as you might be thinking – researchers were studying how faces are interpreted, and viewers’ tendency to associate certain expressions or moods with men and women. In a pair of studies, researchers had subjects identify the sex of a series of androgynous faces. Some had lowered eyebrows, tight lips, and angry expressions, while others showed more pleasant and less constricted ones. Viewers were more likely to identify the angry faces as being male, and the faces with smiles, raised eyebrows, and general expressions of happiness or fear as feminine. The article, published in the Journal of Vision, was an attempt to identify associations between anger and the sexes.

The next study similarly used the male and female faces with expressions of happiness, anger, sadness, fear, or simply a neutral expression. The researchers found that subjects were more likely to identify male faces faster than female faces, implying the association of anger with a masculine face. Female faces that expressed anger tended to take longer to identify. The article quotes Ursula Hess, a PhD from the Department of Psychology at the University of Quebec at Montreal, as saying that the research shows that “the association between anger and men and happiness and women is so strong that it can influence the decisions about the gender of another person when that person is viewed briefly. The face is a complex social signaling system in which signals for emotion, behavioral intentions and sex all overlap.”

Hess goes on to say that a square jaw, thicker eyebrows, and a higher forehead – traits that make a male face appear male – are typically linked to perceptions of dominance. A female’s features, which more often include a rounded, baby face with larger eyes, have also been linked to perceptions of an individual being approachable, receptive, and warm. Hess believes that the difference in how emotions between the two sexes are perceived could have significant implications for social interactions in various settings. The findings show that equal levels of anger in men and women are perceived to be more intense in men, and that happiness is shown as more intense in women. Similarly, it implies that men are less likely than women to be perceived as warm and receptive, and that women are less likely to be perceived as dominant.

With the aid of eye tracking, further research can also be implemented, identifying the exact parts of the face viewers look to when making the determination between male or female.

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