Eye contact: As plain as the nose on your face

February 5, 2019

For years, we’ve been told that eye contact is essential to establishing relationships—and that failing to meet a hiring manager’s eyes during a job interview foils any chance of employment.

But just recently, researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, have found that simply staring somewhere between the forehead and the chin of a conversational partner will suffice, based on a February 5 report by Science Daily.

Yes, eye contact might be all in our heads.

Lead author Dr, Shane Rogers a lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities, believes that, for those of us who experience social anxiety when making eye contact—or when being engaged eye-to-eye—this finding will be welcome news.

“Maintaining strong eye contact is widely accepted to be an important communication skill in western cultures,” he notes. “People [have been led to] 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 asserts.

During the course of the study, a researcher engaged in four-minute conversations with 46 participants, during which both parties wore Tobii eye-tracking glasses.

“For approximately half the conversations the researcher looked at the eyes most of the time; for the other half, [they] gazed predominantly at the mouth,” Dr. Rogers explains..

After the conversations, the participants rated how much they enjoyed the conversations.

“The mouth group perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the conversations just as much as the eye group,” Dr. Rogers comments.

According to Rogers, the results suggest that—when specifically focused on trying to determine the direction of a partner’s glance—people demonstrate a limited capacity to identify 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 says.

“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 recommends.

Research contact: shane.rogers@ecu.edu.au

2 thoughts on "Eye contact: As plain as the nose on your face"

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