A new study from the University of Southern California found that people of different genders were distracted by different things when they tried to focus on someone speaking. Researchers showed 34 study subjects videos of people being interviewed. While the interviewees in the video were speaking, everything from bicycles to pedestrians were whizzing by behind them. Another video camera zoomed in on the study subjects’ pupils to see how their eyes moved. Here’s where the gender differences come in:
Men, when focused on the person being interviewed, parked their eyes on the speaker’s mouth. They tended to be most distracted by distinctive movement behind the interview subjects. By contrast, women shift their focus between the interview subject’s eyes and body. When they were distracted, it was typically by other people entering the video frame.
So, before you lay into your guy the next time you perceive that he simply can’t be bothered to look you in the eye the whole time you’re talking to him, consider this: He might not even realize he’s watching a bird fly by…or a hipster’s bicycle cruise past…or a dog running after a tennis ball. And it might be you who’s truly distracted by a hot waiter coming into your sightline a few tables down.
It’s biology, baby.
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