Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1439–1451 | Cite as

Gender and Visibility of Sexual Cues Influence Eye Movements While Viewing Faces and Bodies

  • Lauri Nummenmaa
  • Jari K. Hietanen
  • Pekka Santtila
  • Jukka Hyönä
Original Paper


Faces and bodies convey important information for the identification of potential sexual partners, yet clothing typically covers many of the bodily cues relevant for mating and reproduction. In this eye tracking study, we assessed how men and women viewed nude and clothed, same and opposite gender human figures. We found that participants inspected the nude bodies more thoroughly. First fixations landed almost always on the face, but were subsequently followed by viewing of the chest and pelvic regions. When viewing nude images, fixations were biased away from the face towards the chest and pelvic regions. Fixating these regions was also associated with elevated physiological arousal. Overall, men spent more time looking at female than male stimuli, whereas women looked equally long at male and female stimuli. In comparison to women, men spent relatively more time looking at the chests of nude female stimuli whereas women spent more time looking at the pelvic/genital region of male stimuli. We propose that the augmented and gender-contingent visual scanning of nude bodies reflects selective engagement of the visual attention circuits upon perception of signals relevant to choosing a sexual partner, which supports mating and reproduction.


Eye movements Body Nudity Visual attention Sexuality Mate choice 



This research was supported by the AivoAalto grant from the Aalto University, and Academy of Finland (Grant # 251125 to LN). We thank Sanni Aalto, Jenny Wahlström, and Anna Backström for their help with data acquisition.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauri Nummenmaa
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jari K. Hietanen
    • 4
  • Pekka Santtila
    • 5
  • Jukka Hyönä
    • 6
  1. 1.Brain Research Unit, O.V. Lounasmaa LaboratorySchool of Science, Aalto UniversityEspooFinland
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational ScienceSchool of Science, Aalto UniversityEspooFinland
  3. 3.Turku PET CentreTurkuFinland
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TampereTampereFinland
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyÅbo Akademi UniversityTurkuFinland
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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