Sarah Gervais of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said she and her team used the Eyelink II eye tracking system on a group of 29 women and 36 men at an unidentified university in the United States who were shown photographs of the same group of models with their body shapes digitally manipulated.
The study, published in the Sex Roles journal, said the eye tracking technology found the participants focused more on the women's chests and waists than on faces when asked to evaluate the models based on appearance.
Both the male and female participants used the method and tended to rate woman higher if they sported hour glass figures than if they had smaller breasts and bigger hips. The men also rated the women with hourglass figures higher when asked to rate them on perceived personality while the women's choices were more varied.
"Generally speaking, people are more positive towards a more attractive woman than a less attractive one," Gervais said. "However, attractiveness may also be a liability, because while evaluating them positively, 'gazers' still focus less on individuating and personalizing features, such as faces, and more on the bodies of attractive women."