TODAY   |  April 28, 2014

Which part of your body do you study in a mirror?

TODAY utilizes eye-tracking software to pinpoint where on their own bodies people’s eyes focus when they analyze their own reflections. Cynthia Bulik, a psychiatry professor, and Jennifer Hartstein, a clinical psychologist, join TODAY to discuss how we view ourselves.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> selfie" week. all this week, we're going to share stories from people who are now redefining what beauty looks like.

>> you just saw us confront our images in the mirror . we also got some folks off the street, many from our plaza crowd, and invited them to do the same. for many of us, what we see in the mirror is not necessarily our true reflection. a dove study found nine out of ten women have felt badly when looking in the mirror . nearly half of those women said it was because they thought they looked fat.

>> women , there's no question about it, they use the mirror as a flaw detector.

>> university of north carolina professor dr. cynthia bulik said women zero in on their problem zones, but men are different.

>> what we see in terms of men, is dudes look into the mirror and they generally like what they see.

>> so we wanted to find out firsthand how far apart mars and venus really are. we asked dr. bulik to help us conduct a nonscientific experiment. we invited men and women ages 16 to 60 to answer questions about the person looking back.

>> when you look into the mirror , what do you see?

>> wrinkles. i see a mother of five.

>> a white dude, brown hair , beard. i like this shirt that i'm wearing. solid blue.

>> we took our social experiment one step further, using state of the art eye tracking software used by marketers, a camera actually pinpoints where people's eyes are focusing on their bodies. the eye tracking marker you were seeing shows where each person is looking.

>> what is the first body part you look at when you look in the mirror ?

>> definitely my hips.

>> i'd say i typically look at my face first to make sure there's nothing on my face.

>> okay, i'm going to give you a couple fill in the blank questions.

>> okay.

>> i really don't like my blank.

>> my stomach. hate my belly.

>> i really don't like my hips.

>> i don't want to, like, side track the question, but i can't think of any part of myself that i really don't like. i think my ears are a little bit pointy. but no one else mentions them, so i guess it's okay.

>> what we saw consistently with our volunteers was that men and women have very different relationships with the mirror . or more specifically, what exactly they focus on.

>> if you look at the women 's, the things that they liked tended to be body parts that were sort of above shoulder level. eyes, the face, the smile, the dimples. and everything that they didn't like tended to be more south of the border . so it was the belly, the hips, the legs. the men sometimes, they didn't even talk about body parts . so they said things like i like my energy.

>> wow.

>> which helps explain why men and women typically feel very differently about mirrors.

>> oh, god.

>> in general, how do you feel about mirrors?

>> hate them.

>> i try and avoid them at all costs.

>> you know, i don't normally pay a whole lot of attention to it except when i'm getting ready in the morning.

>> i get a little uncomfortable. you're like oh, when did that get there?

>> i like mirrors. i think they're necessary. and without them, i think i would look much more dishevelled.

>> but we also saw that men are not totally immune from critiquing themselves.

>> if you could wave a magic wand and change any body part , what would it be?

>> my abs.

>> i would strengthen my core. i would get, like, visible defined abs.

>> bulik says the goal is to no longer make the mirror the enemy and she hopes we can transform negative thoughts to more positive ones so that every glance in the mirror isn't a self-bashing experience.

>> i love my blank.

>> hair.

>> i do love my smile.

>> i love my strong jaw.

>> hopeful signs, too, when the image in the mirror seems like a true self -reflection.

>> i look blank.

>> i look great.

>> i think i look cute. adorable.

>> how does what you see in the mirror first thing in the morning impact you through the rest of your day.

>> it reminds me how far i've gone over the past two years. i've lost close to 50 pounds. and looking in the mirror for me is a realization of how far i've definitely come.

>> well, cynthia bulik, who you just saw in the piece, is with us now. she is a professor of psychology in north carolina and author of "woman in the mirror ." jennifer hartstein is here on behalf of dove. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> thank you for doing this social experiment. anything about it shock you?

>> the differences were amazing. some guys really do generalize and don't look in the mirror and like what they see, but we saw this split. the women were like, oh, this is a frightening experience.

>> where does it come from? what's the origin of that?

>> the fashion and beauty industry, they have conditioned us to see the negative. there's a reason. the advertisers do that because if we look and we see these flaws, then we buy products that fix them.

>> but i see men's magazines all the time and they've got those adonis type characters but men don't react to them as much.

>> you're not immune anymore. i think you're the whole new frontier. because we've been spending our money for decades on beauty products . now it's your turn.

>> is that something you're noticing?

>> yes, it is absolutely something that we're noticing. the men are starting to catch up. we're seeing zac efron with no shirt on the mtv awards and young men are seeing that and that's becoming what they're ascribing to. we know one in three women look in the mirror and just don't like what they see. they see what they feel, but not necessarily what's the reality. and then that informs how they feel the whole day and how things go.

>> it's fascinating to watch and listen to what these people say as they stand in front of the mirror . by the way, when you put us in front of the mirror , it does change what you would normally say about your body. why is it important that we understand it, though?

>> i think it really sets the tone for your relationship with yourself and your relationship with the world. because we asked them, how does this impact your day, the first thing you see in the morning? so many of the women said the first thing i see sets the tone for my mood for the rest of the day.

>> i think also, it trickles down to our children. as a mother to be and as a father, the way that you view yourself gets absorbed by the children in your life. i think for any of us that are involved with children, the more positively we feel about ourselves both with our mood and how we look, our children are more empowered to feel good about that also and that can only set the tone for them later in life for great self-esteem, good mood, less depression and anxiety.

>> i love one of your tips, which is look in the mirror and smile. because that's not hard to do.

>> it's really hard.

>> i know.

>> but thank you so much, cynthia bulik and jennifer hartstein.