Love Is In The Eyes

By on January 2, 2013

If you asked 100 people today what they think is the biggest indicator that somebody finds them attractive, they might say eye contact. This isn’t surprising considering 80% of all human perception is visual.

We’ve all experienced that electric moment where you lock eyes with a stranger. Strong eye contact can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. At the same time, if you are looking at another person it is a huge indication of your own interest in them. This is why you’re more likely to make it with someone that you feel comfortable with, or someone you would like to get to know better.

The Proof

Over the years countless psychology experiments have been conducted to find out exactly how much impact eye contact has on a connection between two people.

In 1998 professor Art Aron conducted an experiment at New York State University in which the participants were grouped into pairs and were to look into each other’s eyes for periods of 2 minutes, without speaking to each other. Afterwards they were asked to rate the level of attraction that they felt to one another.

The results were astounding as the participants reported feeling overwhelmingly attracted to each other. They felt a strong connection with the other participant despite having not exchanged a single word with them. Some of the participants went on to date, and two even on to happily marry!

An earlier experiment in 1970 by Zick Rubin looked at eye contact and love, rather than eye contact and instant attraction. It was called the ‘love scale’ and the participants were real couples. He asked them to privately record the level of attraction and love they felt for their partner. They were then observed as they spent time together.

The average time that people make eye contact during a conversation ranges between 30-60% of the time. The results of this experiment showed that couples who rated themselves as deeply in love made eye contact for 75% of the time they were talking to each other. While couples who felt less strongly for one another held eye contact for significantly less time than the average.

In Practice

While we perhaps don’t need the confirmation of psychology experiments to know how powerful eye contact can be, it has had quite significant implications to one new form of dating.

Eye Gazing Parties

Eye gazing parties are the new twist on speed dating. The principles are all the same, you move around the room, spending 2 minutes with each person. The difference? You cannot speak, you must simply gaze into each other’s eyes for that 2 minutes, much like Art Aron’s experiment in 1998.

The idea was concocted by Michael Ellsberg who attributes their success to the fact that “2 minutes of staring into someones eyes tells you more about them than 10 minutes of talking”. The idea is to move past the frivolousness of early conversation, and to reach a deeper connection early on.

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Steph is a regular blogger on social psychology. You can trust her to understand the importance of vision when it comes to understanding and interpreting human interaction. In her offline life she writes for Lenstore, an online contact lens retailer.

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