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Science: Eye Contact Is All In Your Head

Remember that magical moment when you first locked eyes with your partner and felt an instant connection? Chances are they were looking at your mouth. Or your ear. Yes, eye contact might be all in our heads, according to new research by Edith Cowan University.

It looks like that the magical moment that you  first locked eyes on your partner and you knew they were the one for you didn’t actually happen. Apparently eye contact is all in your head. You were most likely looking at their ear or mouth,

According to researchers at Edith Cowen University people don’t need to mindfully look at the eyes of their audience to be perceived as making eye contact during face-to-face conversation.

Using eye tracking technology and conducting four-minute conversations with 46 participants, they discovered that for approximately half the conversations the researcher looked at the eyes most of the time, and for the other half gazed predominantly at the mouth. After the conversations, the participants rated how much they enjoyed the conversations.

Lead author Dr Shane Rogers said “The mouth group perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the conversations just as much as the eye group,”

He said the results suggest that when specifically focused on trying to determine the gaze of one’s partner, people demonstrate limited capacity to do it accurately.

“People are not very sensitive to the specific gaze focus of their partner to their face; instead they perceive direct gaze towards their face as eye contact,” Dr Rogers said.

“So don’t get hung up on seeking out the eyes of your audience, just look generally at their face, and let the eye contact illusion experienced by your partner do the work for you,” he said.

Dr Rogers said for people who experience social anxiety when gazing specifically at another person’s eyes — or when being looked at — this finding will be welcome news.

“Maintaining strong eye contact is widely accepted to be an important communication skill in western cultures,” Dr Rogers said.

“People believe if you aren’t willing to engage in soul-to-soul mutual eye contact then you are at best lacking in confidence, at worst, untrustworthy.

“However, the reverence devoted to eye contact is not supported by scientific evidence,” he said.

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