According to Nationalgeographic, when University of Bristol researchers asked 52 men and women to study various images, gender differences emerged in terms of where the subjects focused their attention and in how much of a picture they explored.
The 26 female and 26 male study participants--ranging in age from 19 to 47--tended to focus on anywhere from one to five "hot spots" in still images made from films and taken of artwork. The images included scenes from movies such as The Sound of Music, Inside Man, and The Blue Planet, and artwork including "People in the Sun" by Edward Hopper and "Three Graces" by David Bowers.
This diagram shows the most eye-catching areas of the photo above for women (red) and men (blue). Illustration courtesy Felix Mercer Moss
Most of the hot spots involved the faces of people in the pictures, especially eyes, as well as other body parts, such as hands. Women, however, explored more of an image than men did, often focusing on nonfacial areas and places slightly below where men fixed their gaze.
Lead author Felix Mercer Moss, a vision researcher and doctoral student at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, speculates that risk aversion may explain some of the differences. In Western culture, a direct gaze can be construed as threatening. "Women may be attaching more risk to looking people in the eye," Mercer Moss noted, which is why they may focus their gaze on a lower part of the face than men do.
This research concluded that men and women gaze things differently, and this is for avoiding the risk of a direct gaze. Also women may be attaching more risk to looking people in the eye, which is why they may focus their gaze on a lower part of the face than men do. However, this research couldn't explain why women tent to gaze on a lower part of face than men do. They need a further research to explore 'why'.
This research used eye-tracking method. This kind of experiment may have distorted gender ratio or stereotypes. Because this method includes both computer science where male are dominant and psychology department where female are dominant. For this reason, this research might not be broadly applicable.