Home > Attention > Facebook Profiles: Where people look depends on your gender and attractiveness

Facebook Profiles: Where people look depends on your gender and attractiveness

For many college students in the United States, spending time on Facebook is a daily routine, whether it is to chat with friends, look at interesting posts, or cyber-stalk your recent crush. Facebook and other forms of social media have become a big parts of contemporary life whether people like it or not. And in current times when professors are Facebook friends, online dating is becoming more prevalent, and employers look up profiles to make an impression of potential employees, it is important to mind the content and know what it is that people pay attention to. The current study, Seidman and Miller (2013), uses an eye-tracking software to find out just that.

In this experiment, fifty-one participants, 33 females and 18 males, were asked to look at four different profile pictures for sixty seconds in order to make an impression on the people in the profiles. The four profiles were of an attractive female, an attractive male, an unattractive female, and an unattractive male. The profiles included a profile picture, which was a full frontal facial image of the person smiling, an About Me section, a Likes and Interests section, and advertisements. Their eye movements were tracked and the amount of time spent on each section was calculated.

The results showed that participants spent more time looking at profile pictures of females more so that males. Participants also spent more time looking at the Likes and Interests section for males than for females. As for attractiveness, participants spent more time looking at advertisements when the individual was unattractive. All these results were expected by the experiments based on past experiments based on previous studies on gender and attractiveness, where attractive influences the amount of attention spent on a person, and physical attractiveness being used more often when making impressions on women. These factors are sort of like the context that influences where attention is spent.

Currently, people are trying more and more to emphasize the importance of inner personality traits instead of external traits such as gender and attractiveness. This study casts a shadow on this ideal because these differences in how we attend to people seem automatic. How then can you use this information to help you in real life? That too is my question. However it is important to note that though there are differences in attention, time spent on the Likes and Interests section and the About Me section were greater than time spent on the profile picture and the advertisements.


Seidman, G., & Miller, O. S. (2013). Effects of Gender and Physical Attractiveness on Visual Attention to Facebook Profiles. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16, 175-183.

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  1. November 30th, 2014 at 19:55 | #1

    It’s interesting to see how we analyze people based upon their gender and level of attractiveness. Societal norms have ingrained in us certain ‘ideal’ images of males and females and these mental representations have come to shape our automatic responses. I think that the results collected from this study reflect our goal of successful reproduction. I read an article online (I forget the name of the author(s)) that stated that females tend to look for protection and stability when it comes to finding a partner, and males tend to look for youth so as to facilitate successful reproduction. This finding supports the findings in the above study, and highlights the differences between male and female mentality when it comes to attraction.

  2. December 1st, 2014 at 23:06 | #2

    This article brings in a lot of stereotypes about males and females. The fact that the participants, who were mostly female, spent more time looking at males’ likes and interests versus their profile pictures confirms the stereotype that women are more concerned with men’s personalities than their physical appearances. Additionally, the fact that the participants spent more time looking at the females’ profile pictures more than their likes and interests confirms the stereotype of the objectification of women’s bodies. However, this study does not take into account anything related to sexual preference or really any personality traits at all which would/probably did have a large effect on the participants’ bias towards what to check on a profile page. I understand the point you are making about attention and how the differences in how we see others depends on automaticity, but I still don’t truly understand this study and what it tells us about cognitive functions.

  3. December 2nd, 2014 at 19:33 | #3

    As I was reading this post, I found myself wondering what qualifies a photo of an individual as “attractive” or “unattractive?” Are there certain universal qualities that researchers used to determine whether their pictures were “attractive” or not? Or did they ask participants for ratings on attractiveness? I feel like attractiveness is a very subjective category, and thus difficult to draw conclusions on.

    I am not at all surprised, however, that attractiveness influences the amount of time spent looking at a women’s profile. In a society where women are daily scrutinized in media and in real life for their looks, this attitude clearly translates to social media. I think it would be interesting to see, in addition to amount of time spent looking at pictures and likes/interests based on a person’s attractiveness, the participants’ judgment of their character or friendliness. I would hypothesize that more attractive pictures would lead to more friendly ratings because we often make snap judgments about a person based on exterior qualities.

  4. December 3rd, 2014 at 12:04 | #4

    I assume that the study used a Western (American) college population for their sample, in which case the there is a lot to account for in terms of cultural influence, intentions, and habit. This “first impression” study would be ideal to extend across generations/age, and across cultures. If we are to assume that mating instincts are to account for any portion of these results, which would help explain the unconscious attentiveness for attractiveness, especially for females, then there should probably be a bell curve of this effect across age. Furthermore, irregardless of what the current popular emphasis is, American culture has been characteristically materialistic. A comparison of the effects found in this study across generations of Americans, as well as across cultures would allow for greater understanding as to how much the results were influenced by social habit, and how much was natural instinct. It might be interesting to see what parts people generally look at first. I would assume most people begin with the picture, but there is also an aspect of habit in this, assuming that the experimenters used the typical picture at top right or top centered orientation. It would be interesting to see whether the habit persist when the picture is put in a less conventional place such as bottom left corner.

  5. October 20th, 2015 at 18:33 | #5

    I have a few thoughts on this article. The first thing that stuck out to me was the fact that participants looked at the attractive female longer longer than attractive males. I would have hypothesized that this would be moderated by gender of the participant—males would look longer at an attractive women. However, because the sample was predominantly women, this can’t be the case. I think it says a lot about our culture that both genders looked longer at the attractive female: maybe that we put too much pressure on women to be “attractive.”

    The article notes that this “is sort of like the context that influences where the attention is spent.” Top down processes certainly could have an effect here, as we expect to see certain things on facebook profiles. Additionally, more and more facebook is designing its newsfeed so it is mainly photos and videos rather than text. This might make it harder for important information, like About Me or Interests, to get through.

  6. ruhe
    October 21st, 2015 at 00:36 | #6

    This article basically examines how people pay attention to male and female differently online. The author states that when people are checking female profiles they tend to focus on the attractiveness while when it comes to male, they would pay more attention to their interests and hobbies. However, there are several problems regarding to the author’s research.

    First, the author fails to determine the edge between “attractive” and “unattractive”. Those photos being selected need ratings on themselves to prove if the author’s standard of attractiveness is reliable. Second, the author only provides photos of a facial image of the person, which might fail to give the participants information about their physical body condition. Some people might pay more attention to how others’ body look like other than the attractiveness of their faces, especially regarding to male. Third, the sample might be selected from college students so the experiment result should be only applied to college students as well. In the article, the researcher didn’t mention anyone paid much attention to the “About Me” section. I think the reason might be the personal information of college students look alike, but if we examine people who are working, things might be completely different. Employer probably would spend more time on “About Me” section as part of the employee’s resume. Thus external attractiveness is not a huge factor of whether people will be hired or not.

    Another thing I am interested in is that college students pay much attention to male students’ “Likes and Interests” section, which might correspond to people see more of male’s job and social status when they start to work. For example,it’s possible that popular and strong interests like athlete in a varsity team matches males who have higher social status in the future. It would be really interesting if these two factors indeed have some relationships.

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