Humans are one of the few species of mammals in which a relatively large brain is combined with a great ability to process visual stimuli. We spend our day paying attention to the scenes unfolding before our eyes, imagining concrete images, and subconsciously judging the non-verbal language of others, much of which is visual.
The visual experience, the one we love the most
In our free time, we like to see our entertainment needs through the eyes, and to see things we can even stand by watching a succession of TV commercials, which rationally only benefits to the advertiser.
Our brain he is able to capture this apparent chaos of visual information and make sense of it, Because it is made to accommodate a massive amount of data and prioritize some aspects over others. It’s not for nothing that about a third of the human brain is dedicated to processing visual information. We can say that the look is one of our best weapons adaptation to the environment.
But there is a context in which the gaze is not simply a tool for collecting data. What happens when, instead of searching for important information in a continuous torrent of moving figures and textures, one gaze meets another gaze? What processes are triggered when someone looks at ours and vice versa?
Create privacy from the look
Eye contact appears to be closely related to forming intimate emotional bonds and selecting possible mates. One study, for example, notes that couples who are in a romantic relationship maintain eye contact for 75% of the time they spend in a conversation with each other, while the rest is normal. 30% to 60% of the time. Outraged, the better the quality of the relationship (measured through questionnaires), the more its members tend to look at each other.
But a corresponding gaze is not a simple symptom of intimacy: it can also be a factor that contributes to creating this climate of intimacy. In one experiment, a series of 72 people, unknown to each other, were placed face to face and asked to gaze into each other’s eyes continuously for two minutes. Couples who followed these instructions to the letter showed a greater sense of affection and romantic love for the other person, which didn’t occur to the same extent if, instead of looking into each other’s eyes, they looked into the other person’s hands or focused on counting the blinks from the other person’s eyes.
Why is this happening?
The eyes are one of the parts of the face that we focus on the most when interacting with someone. This, which seems natural and even obvious, it is a rarity in the animal kingdom. However, our species has evolved to have extraordinary control over the facial muscles that are around the eyes, and we are also particularly good at recognizing the nuances and subtleties behind these small movements. That’s why getting to know someone is one of our favorite parts to focus our attention on, besides the mouth.
However, when we are not just looking into someone’s eyes, but someone looking back at us, the interaction changes completely as theory of mind kicks in, which can be briefly defined. like our ability to think about what goes through the other. the person’s mind, which can be based on what they think is going through our mind, and so on.
Either way, the fewer obstacles there are to this real-time transmission of information in the form of a sustained and corresponding gaze from the other person, the more intimate it becomes in its context.
Between honesty and lies
When we meet a gaze that faces us, not only do we see eyes, but the possible image we give mixed with information revealed to us by the other person. This is why eye contact is a phenomenon in which insecurity and harmonization and the creation of an intimate context can manifest itself.
In negotiating between information obtained from the other and that given about oneself, comfortably maintaining eye contact is a symptom of comfort and security in what is said and done, While the opposite occurs with aversion.
In fact, already in groups of 6-year-olds there has been a tendency to associate eye contact with honesty and dislike of the other’s gaze with lying, while those who look away could do it – because they don’t have the ability to concentrate. pay attention to each other’s gaze and at the same time maintain a false image of themselves that seems consistent.
Spontaneity is rewarded
Holding someone’s gaze seems to have a relatively high cognitive cost (distracts us), and if we also do it deliberately and not unconsciously, the difficulty of maintaining an agile and stimulating dialogue may decrease. In this way, people who express their affinity with someone through spontaneous and not entirely planned reciprocal gazes have an advantage over those who try to maintain eye contact as if it were an imposition.
In short, people who have less reason to lie (verbally or gesture) about themselves are able to prolong eye contact with each other. It can be concluded that in order to benefit from the power of supporting the gaze, it is not enough to try to put it into practice, but it must go hand in hand with a well-worked self-esteem and the conviction that what we can offer l other person will serve for mutual benefit.
- Einav, S. and Hood, BM (2008). Revealing the eyes: attribution by children of aversion to gaze as a signal to lie. Developmental Psychology, 44 (6), p. 1655-1667.
- Kellerman, J., Lewis, J and Laird, JD (1989). Watching and loving: the effects of mutual gaze on feelings of romantic love. Personality Research Journal, 23 (2), pages 145-161.
- Rubin, Z. (1970). Measure of romantic love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16 (2), pages 265-273.