I recently read this interesting study on where people tend to look when viewing an article online. It was conducted using eyetracking, which I immediately thought must involve frightening ocular implants straight out of a future dystopia. Fifteen seconds of Googling later, I realized it is simply done using a video camera placed below a computer monitor that locks onto a subject’s gaze and follows it, matching it to what is being shown on the screen. Pretty nifty.
The study resulted in some good advice for graphic designers looking to improve the way their audience uses a web site, but of course the thing everyone keeps talking about is the surprising finding that when shown a photo of a baseball player at bat, women will invariably focus on the head while men will focus on the . . . the other head. I don’t mean a glance or two — I mean a good, long, (longing?) gaze.
I wasn’t planning to mention all this here, but this morning my coworker told me a good story. He was in the gym below our office, toweling off after a shower, when the CEO walked up to him stark naked and began a conversation. This is actually the second time it has happened, so my coworker was at least partially mentally prepared. Following the first incident, the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not my coworker “sneaked a peek.” He said no. To be precise, I believe he said, “Jesus, no, what’s wrong with you? No!” Leopards, of course, do not change their spots.
“So, did you get a better look at it this time?” I asked.
“Come on, not even a glance?”
“No! Why would I do that? Jesus.”
“How could you not,” I said. “It’s like if I said don’t think of an elephant, but you can’t help it.”
Another male coworker piped up, “Yeah, or like the other saying, don’t look at a penis.”
“I didn’t,” he said. “Trust me, I can not look.”
“Not even peripherally?” another (female) coworker asked.
“It was like a black box obscuring everything but his head,” he responded. He claimed it was like a psychological trick, self-imposed blindness for the sake of preservation. “Trust me,” he said, “I didn’t want to look there.”
The Eyetracker begs to differ. I pointed out the study to my coworker: “When shown a photo of a guy at bat, women focused on his head and men focused on his head and his crotch.”
“Well yeah,” he said, “That’s the strike zone.”