Sarah Gervais of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her team used the Eyelink II eye tracking system on a group of 29 women and 36 men at an unidentified university in the United States who were shown photographs of the same group of models with their body shapes digitally manipulated.
The study, published in the Sex Roles journal, said the eye tracking technology found the participants focused more on the women’s chests and waists than on faces when asked to evaluate the models based on appearance.
Men accused of a wandering eye might make their excuses, but now there is no denying it – science has proved they really do ogle women’s bodies.
Eye-tracking technology showed men spend less time looking women in the eye or at their faces than they do at their waists and chests.
But researchers also found women looked at other women’s bodies more than their facial features.
Scientists attached a device to the faces of 36 men which measured in milliseconds how long they looked at something.
The participants were monitored as they were shown pictures of ten women with three body shapes: curvy, thin or medium build.
The results showed that the men spent more time looking at women’s bodies than their faces – and those with larger breasts, narrower waists and bigger hips held their gaze for longer.
The team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US said the trait could have evolved as a way of males inspecting potential mates for childbearing.
But lead author and social psychologist Professor Sarah Gervais added that their findings could have a more modern – and depressing – explanation.
She said: ‘We live in a culture in which we constantly see women objectified in interactions on television and in the media.
‘When you turn your own lens on everyday, ordinary women, we focus on those parts, too.’
She said until now there has been little scientific evidence to back up what women had long suspected about the way men look at them.
‘We have women’s self-reports, but this is some of the first work to document that people actually engage in this,’ she said.
The same experiment was carried out on 29 women too and came up with similar conclusions – women looked at other women’s breasts and hips more than their faces.
Professor Gervais said that women may be checking out the competition so looked other females up and down to see what they were up against.