MediaFile

Keep your eye on the ball

October 18, 2007

Technology that tracks eye movements across Web pages offers useful design insights for news sites — and sometimes uncomfortable truths. At the Online News Association conference in Toronto, two U.S. university researchers presented “heat maps” showing which parts of a Web page readers focus on, based on experiments that use an eye-tracking camera in the base of a computer monitor. But the information that the top-right corner of a page is a dead-zone for eye traffic was less interesting than the heat map for a picture of baseball player George Brett . While both men and women focused primarily on Brett’s face when asked to find a picture of him on a baseball site, one of the sexes also fixated on what the researchers coyly termed his “private anatomy.” The revelation that the wandering eyes belonged to the males was embarrassing enough for the men in the audience, but researchers Laura Ruel and Nora Paul had a further humiliation in store. They got the same results when they repeated the experiment with pictures on the American Kennel Club site.

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

That also happens to be the strike zone.

Posted by Shap | Report as abusive
 

I find it interesting that either the researchers didn’t look further into the reason why men look both at the waist/crotch, and more generally at the seen.

As stated above on this photo this segment is the stike zone, in many sports or in tracking animals for hunting the waist is a better indictation of where the body will move. If you watch basketball players guarding an opponent the don’t look at the head.

I would separate the sample into which men understood baseball, played sports, etc.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive
 

This is just a quasi-scientific affirmation of the male “shower room” reflex, the equivalent of other male animals checking out each other’s genitals. On some level, we (males) want to know all aspects of our competitors, including the most visible sign of maleness. While wrongly associated with “manhood” (a cultural term, I’d say), the size and shape of genitalia are a natural curiosity for males. For the gay/bisexual(?) male, there may be an additional reason for eyeing another guy’s crotch (notice “may”, not “is”), but in and of itself, glancing at another guy’s crotch is no more homoerotic than slapping another guy’s ass after a good play.
And, as Shap points out, with a baseball player that is also the strike zone, although I think that would better explain why, during an actual game, both genders would be heating up because of the action “down there”, as it were. In a still photo, I think the crotch watch is due only to a natural reflex, not a sexual interest.
As for women not looking “there” in a still photo…come on, we all know that women find our genitals less than comely. Plus, they’re thinking of progeny in terms of the head on the shoulders, rather than that below the waist.

Posted by mkevinf | Report as abusive
 

I wonder if when shown pictures of women, did the women look more at the female chest area, or did the men?

Posted by tommy | Report as abusive
 

I apologize being so vague as to dates and source material in the following…I simply don’t have the resources or know how on how to dig it up.
I recall some eye-tracking work which I read about in the late ’50s or the ’60s. The research was done I believe at either Purdue or Duke University and then reported, I think, in Scientific American.
The eye-tracking system described in the article was very primitive compared to what I read about today. As I recall the stated object of the research was to determine how “people” scanned or viewed various images.It was only after they began that it be came obvious that there were gender based differences.
There were a few photos in the article one of which was a draft horse standing in profile, it was a bucolic setting, farm-land background, etc. The differences in the male/female scans were marked. While both groups, for the most part, “hit” the same anatomic areas, the differences in the lengths of time each group spent/lingered on any particular area of the horse was remarkable.
I won’t attempt to describe the article…It’s been too long to me to recall adequately. I will say though that, based upon how the ladies scanned the horse, I would have expected the “man at bat” results to be the opposite of what is shown here.
Perhaps someone out there with the requisite skills/resources/interest will dig up the article I am referring to and see how the past and present work compare
Take care ….Genevastar

Posted by Genevastar | Report as abusive
 

mkevinf: “… glancing at another guy’s crotch is no more homoerotic than slapping another guy’s ass … that is also the strike zone … crotch watch is due only to a natural reflex, not a sexual interest.”

LOL. Talking about a stretch of rationalizations. You guys are starting to sound almost as desperate as Larry Craig.

Posted by Lou | Report as abusive
 

There were several fascinating studies showing that during a slide show of various images (including nude men), the more homophobic a man was – the more his penis became erect in response to the nude male images. Could be a connection there.

Posted by Lou | Report as abusive
 

An obvious related question is whether there was a difference in where people looked on women as well.

Posted by John | Report as abusive
 

I didn’t realize canines had a strike zone, let alone played baseball.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/