Men and Women Evaluate Faces Differently Interview with:
Antoine Coutrot PhD

University College London
London, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The human face is central to our everyday social interactions. Recent studies have shown that while gazing at faces, each one of us has a particular eye-scanning pattern, highly stable across time. Although variables such as culture or personality have been shown to modulate gaze behavior, we still don’t know what shapes these idiosyncrasies.

Moreover, most previous observations rely on analyses of small-sized eye-position datasets, often from the WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) population. Here we use a very large and diverse dataset (400+ participants from 58 nationalities) and show that among many observer characteristics, gender is the one that best explains the differences in gaze behaviour. When looking at faces, women are more exploratory than men and more biased toward the left side. We even trained a classifier able to infer the gender of observers only based on their gaze. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Visual attention networks are so pervasive in the human brain that eye movements carry a wealth of information that can be exploited for many purposes. Eye movements can be used to infer many characteristics of the observers, like their cognitive workload (particularly useful during demanding tasks such as air traffic control), the task at hand, or here, their gender.

Another very promising line of studies is gaze-based disease screening. 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. In many cases (particularly where patients/young infants cannot talk), this has the added advantage of bypassing verbal report. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Here, we show that in our dataset, when looking at faces, women are more exploratory than men, and more biased toward the left-side of the face. But more generally, the key message is that it is possible to use gaze patterns to extract many information about the observer. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Face exploration dynamics differentiate men and women
Antoine Coutrot; Nicola Binetti; Charlotte Harrison; Isabelle Mareschal; Alan Johnston
Journal of Vision November 2016, Vol.16, 16. doi:10.1167/16.14.16

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

More Medical Research Interviews on

[wysija_form id=”5″]

Last Updated on December 2, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD