The watchful eye of others often leads people to alter their behaviour. Eye tracking methodology has been used to create implied social presence, as well as to examine gaze patterns to erotic stimuli, but the effects of implied social presence on visual attention to erotic and neutral stimuli remains largely unknown. In the present study, we examined precisely this issue. We compared looking behaviour of men and women who were either aware that their gaze patterns were being monitored (implied social presence) and those who lacked this knowledge (no implied presence). Women in the aware condition made significantly fewer fixations than men, whereas no such gender differences were found in the unaware condition. Across both conditions, men made significantly more fixations to the erotic stimuli compared to the neutral stimuli and the background. For women, no significant differences were found in the number of fixations to the erotic stimuli and the background, although women look at these areas more than the neutral stimuli. These results demonstrate that eye tracking creates an implied social presence, and this differentially affects the looking behaviour of women versus men. Moreover, gendered sexual norms coupled with the need to manage self-presentation may influence women's sexual urges and expressions. The inhibition of sexuality displayed by women indicates that sexual double standards still exist in society and need to be addressed. As well, theoretical, methodological, and clinical implications of eye tracking methodology should be taken into consideration in future research.


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pp. 105-119
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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