Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A possible explanation for why people find it hard to maintain eye contact when talking

A pair of researchers with Kyoto University has found a possible explanation for why people sometimes have trouble maintaining eye contact when talking with someone face-to-face. In their paper published in the journal Cognition, Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura describe experiments they carried out with volunteers to learn more about how the phenomenon works and then discuss their findings.

Most everyone knows that maintaining eye contact with another person while speaking can sometimes be difficult—at times, the urge to look away becomes overwhelming. In some instances, it is clear that such breaks just seem natural to keep things from becoming awkward, or it signals that someone has grown bored with the conversation—but at other times, the researchers suggest, it is because we are trying to keep our brains from overloading.

To better understand what is going on in the brain during conversation, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 26 volunteers who were asked to participate in a common word-association game in which a person was shown a word (a noun) and was then asked to offer an immediate response (a verb), e.g. when given the word "ball," a reply might be the word "throw." In the lab, the volunteers interacted with a face on a computer (that sometimes looked away) as they played the game with different types of words that the researchers had preselected—some were easy while others were more difficult—coming up with a verb for "sky," for example, can be difficult for some because of the lack of choices, while coming up with a response to a word like "leaf" may be difficult because it has so many options to choose from.

Via Reddit: go to this link for more

11 comments:

ricpic said...

Isn't that why people have families, so they don't have to make eye contact with their loved ones?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There is such a thing as a staring duel, apparently.

Methadras said...

While I'm talking to you, I'm looking you in the eye to gauge you, to read you, to see, based on context and content if I'm either getting through to you or if you are taking me seriously. I hold peoples stares A) because if we lock eyes, i have you captive mentally and B) because I'm dominating you and C) because it also ends up being a staring contest and I'm competitive like that. :D

deborah said...

Slightly off topic, but I recently read that people can tell if their eyes met from like 50 yards or 50 feet or something. Have you ever noticed that you KNOW when your eyes have met with someone else's?

AllenS said...

It's really hard if they have big breasts.

deborah said...

lol

windbag said...

And, as AllenS points out, that's the reason I really, really try to lock eyes with women while I'll talking with them. It's quite unfair that Trooper gets a pass on this, because he can ogle all his customers with the excuse that he was sizing them up for a proper bra fitting. Some guys get all the luck.

deborah said...

I do feel for guys on this issue. But it must build concentration.

ken in tx said...

This is culturally determined. For example, Hispanic females do not look males in the eyes, as this is considered seductive and/or disrespectful. In Japan, where this university is, there are signs in the zoo that tell people not to stare in the eyes of monkeys and apes as this is considered aggressive. Subordinates in many cultures are not supposed to look in the eyes of someone of higher rank, it's considered insolent and uppity.

deborah said...

If you stare at a house cat pretty close up it may well jump at your face.

ndspinelli said...

Maintaining eye contact isn't a staring contest if it comes naturally. It's creepy if you are not a natural and try and do it. When I'm reading someone, their eyes are key. ken makes a great point about cultures. That can lead to misreads. I've misread Asians.