It’s not men who spend their time secretly ogling women - it’s women, a new study has revealed.
Bristol University researchers found that it is the fairer sex that gives their rivals’ bodies a good visual once-over, rather than their supposedly Neanderthal partners, the Telegraph reported.
Men are more likely to concentrate on a potential mate’s face.
The academics came to their conclusions after asking volunteers to examine a range of different images, including stills from nature documentaries, classical and surrealist paintings, and freeze-frames of couples in films.
The last category included one of the final scenes from ‘Love Actually,’ starring Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon, where the pair appear on a school stage together. Grant plays a fictional prime minister who becomes besotted with a maid at Number 10, and the couple end up kissing on stage at the end of a nativity play.
Another scene was from the 1961 classic ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ in which Audrey Hepburn’s tightly-wound character Holly Golightly tussles over a table lamp with her tenant Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard.
The researchers found that women weren’t interested in looking at Grant or Peppard: it was McCutcheon and Hepburn they focused on.
They spent 61 percent of their time looking at the women in the pictures, and only 39 percent on the men.
When they looked at the women their eyes tended to roam around the whole figure, while men concentrated on the face.
Felix Mercer Mos, a computer science PhD student, who led the study, said: “This is counter-intuitive from a sexual perspective if you are thinking about desire, but it’s not surprising if you look at it in terms of sexual competition.”
“The women might be checking out their sexual rivals, and comparing themselves with them.
“That’s speculation of course - I’ve no proof whatsoever,” he said.
Men did prefer looking at the women - but only just - by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.
The researchers also found that women tended to avoid looking directly at the eyes of people in the pictures, male or female, directing their gaze just below, to the nose or mouth, when looking at the face.
Men had no such qualms, looking at Grant, Peppard, McCutcheon and Hepburn straight in the eye.
This could have been because women were “more sensitive to the negative consequences of making direct eye contact”, the Bristol team said.
The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE.