The New Rules of Maintaining Eye Contact (Hint: Don't Do It)

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What's the Right Amount of Eye Contact?

A new study is casting doubt on the idea that maintaining eye contact is the best way to get ahead in life.

Writing in the journal Psychological Science, a group of psychologists described a number of experiments they conducted to determine the role of eye contact in successfully persuading other people to your viewpoint. What they found was at odds with most traditional views of powerful body language.

"Popular belief holds that eye contact increases the success of persuasive communication, and prior research suggests that speakers who direct their gaze more toward their listeners are perceived as more persuasive," the authors write in the paper's abstract. "In contrast, we demonstrate that more eye contact between the listener and speaker during persuasive communication predicts less attitude change in the direction advocated."

In one experiment, they had subjects watch video of a speaker advocating various views while eye-tracking software recorded where they were looking. Those who focused on the speaker's eyes turned out to be less persuaded by the argument.

Another experiment, in which the subject was predisposed to disagree with the speaker, found that eye contact was counterproductive to winning over a skeptical audience.

We're not sure that we'd advocate starting at your feet at your next job interview. But if you're working on a tough sell -- either on a date, an interview or a sales pitch -- don't think that staring deep into the other person's eyes is going to seal the deal.

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11 Comments

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bandicoot5

There is only one set of eyes I really want to stare into. Funny thing is, I'M the one being persuaded...to follow it up with a kiss. :-D Gosh, it works EVERY TIME! Hehe

October 13 2013 at 2:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ga7smi

eye contact is aggresive behavior - always has been

October 13 2013 at 1:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
b.saranczak

That is why you should hire women to do those jobs.

October 13 2013 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kirbylwaite

How hilarious. Read the other AOL article today on "how to be more likable and effective": MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT!

October 12 2013 at 11:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kirbylwaite's comment
starstrz

I noticed the same thing.

October 13 2013 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kkpeter1831

IN MY (LESS THAN VAST) EXPERIENCE IF SOME ONE STARES YOU IN THE EYE WHILE TELLING YOU SOMETHING - 9 TIMES OUT OF 10 THEY ARE LYING. THEY ARE WATCHING TO SEE IF YOU BELIEVE WHAT THEY ARE SAYING. THE AVERAGE PERSON BREAKS EYE CONTACT EVERY FEW SECONDS.

October 12 2013 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kkpeter1831's comment
ga7smi

a bit loud

October 13 2013 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jwells1008

The article is written "backwards". The audience is looking to the speakers eyes, not vice versa. A speaker can't look into a whole audience eye's. Look into thier eyes refers to one on one, not public speaking. Poorly written BS article.

October 12 2013 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mitchellmog

This study means nothing. Too many ignored variables. What was the subject matter being discussed? Age of participants? Did the speaker have a Nelson Mandela type of presence, or an A-Rod style? In other words: how many factors playing into the speaker's believability are being overlooked? The import of looking someone in the eyes as you speak to them is that it lends weight and credibility to the words being spoken, because the directness implies conviction and lack of deception. Liars look down and to the left, I believe. Look it up.

October 12 2013 at 9:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mitchellmog's comment
tbird57lover

You are absolutely correct, mitchell........When one looks someone in the eyes while speaking to them does lend credibility. This is another of waaay beyond too many shallow and useless studies being done these days. Egads, enough already!

October 12 2013 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tbird57lover's comment
dr scott kanner

Hope this wasnt gov funded

October 12 2013 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
deebeck7765

Yes...but I think the amount of eye contact is key. No one is comfortable with 100% eye contact. And some of the best liars have the eye contact thing down pat. :)

October 12 2013 at 4:17 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down