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John Shen, Laurent Itti; Top-down Visual Attention and Gender in a Focused Listening Task. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):636. doi: 10.1167/11.11.636.
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Visual attention and patterns of eye movements may be influenced by individual characteristics, such as gender or culture, in specific stimulus and task environments. From psychology studies of social interaction, we know that gaze behavior varies between men and women when in conversation. Using eye-tracking in naturalistic settings, we found that men and women orient attention differently during conversational listening. Thirty-four subjects (15 men and 19 women) had their eyes tracked while watching and listening to twelve videotaped speakers in 84 different clips. While listening, we found that men gaze more often at the mouth (p = 0.009) and women at the eyes (p = 0.028) of the speaker. In addition, we measured the static and dynamic feature saliency according to a previously verified model of attention (Itti, 2004). When we measured the correlation (in ROC score) of each subject's eye movements to feature, we found that the fixations of men correlated more strongly with dynamic saliency (p < 0.0001), even at regions inside the face, i.e. the eyes (p = 0.023). We attribute overall gaze gender differences in social interactions to a male preference for motion and a female preference for features that are socially defined. We also propose that these gender differences arise from different integration strategies of visual cues in selecting the final target of attention. Our findings illuminate how the character of social interactions may vary by gender, and may also suggest more predictive models of visual attention that take into account individual characteristics.
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