Women are more likely to follow the gaze of others
If familiar people look in a specific direction, women are more likely to follow this look than men. Researchers led by Michael Platt from Duke University see this as an indication that women are better at social communication.
The scientists showed 32 volunteers pictures of faces with eyes looking left or right, followed by a box on the left or right of the face, which the participants were asked to indicate. Some of the people pictured were known to the subjects as members of the institute.
Putting the box and line of sight on the same side of unfamiliar faces accelerated the response time of participants by nine milliseconds for position reporting, regardless of gender. If it was a well-known person, women even recorded the position of the box 26 milliseconds faster, while men only twelve milliseconds. Apparently, the women followed the gaze of the familiar counterpart more often and thus noticed the box that appeared earlier.
"Women perform better in many aspects of social communication, so it's not entirely surprising that they beat their male counterparts in noticing and responding to their peers' gaze," Platt explains. Colleagues like David Buss from the University of Texas at Austin warn that it would be an exaggeration to conclude from this that women are the more social creatures: there was evolutionary pressure for both sexes to develop social skills. However, the pressure is likely to have varied in intensity and thus had different effects. In order to find out why women are better at the trick with the line of sight, one has to delve deeper into the special requirements of the social behavior of the respective gender, says Platt.(af)