As we approach Valentine’s Day, the global celebration of love and romance on 14 February, the team at Good vision for life ponders how much importance eye contact holds when falling in love.
New research released this week out of Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia suggests that the connection we feel with a love interest when we lock eyes might all be in our heads.
Using eye tracking technology, ECU researchers have demonstrated that people don’t need to mindfully look into the eyes of the recipient to be perceived as making eye contact during face-to-face conversation. Apparently simply gazing somewhere around the face or head will suffice.
But there is also plenty of opinion – and science – to the contrary.
London dating coach Johnny Cassell says that eye contact is one of the most essential elements of communication, as it plays a vital role in setting up and maintaining attraction.
This might be because there are more neurons in the brain dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined – up to 80 per cent of what our bodies take in is filtered through our eyes. So the eyes are not just windows to the soul, but also to neuron pathways that can form love connections in our brains.
The Guardian notes that how we harness the eyes to “create” love has been the subject of decades of scientific study. And we agree - interest in the role of eye contact in intimacy shows no signs of faltering.
One of the earlier studies, conducted in 1970 by Zick Rubin, found that people with a stronger connection on the love spectrum also held eye contact for significantly longer periods. According to Rubin’s findings, most people in conversation with each other hold eye contact anywhere from 30 to 60 per cent of the time. On the other hand, couples who are in love look at each other 75 per cent of the time when they’re talking. They are also far slower to break eye contact when they’re interrupted.
It was the Rubin study which inspired social psychologist Arthur Aron to run another study in 1987, in which he tasked sets of relative strangers with asking and answering 36 questions of increasing personal revelation. Aron added another element to his study: the question and answer sessions would be immediately followed by three minutes of gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.
Aron’s research remains relevant today and enjoyed a resurgence of recent publicity.
So while the questions may long continue around eye contact and love, we say let’s celebrate both.