It is traditionally seen as a sign of confidence and being trustworthy – but making direct eye contact is not necessary, research suggests.
Looking at another part of the face will do just as well, a study found.
Scientists said people can hardly tell the difference whether someone is looking at their eyes or their mouth. The study, using eye-tracking glasses, found that when 46 people were spoken to by a researcher, they thought he was making eye contact even when he was looking at their lips.
And they enjoyed the conversation just as much. Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia found people who are unsure whether someone is looking at their ear, nose, mouth, forehead or eyes will usually guess it is the eyes.
This means people who are not so keen on eye contact can easily cheat.
Dr Shane Rogers, from the university, said people ‘perceive direct gaze towards their face as eye contact’. He added: ‘So don’t get hung up on seeking out the eyes of your audience. Just look generally at their face, and let the eye contact illusion…do the work for you.’ The findings were based on a four-minute ‘getting to know you’ chat when both the researcher and participants wore eye-tracking glasses.
Dr Rogers stressed: ‘Maintaining strong eye contact is widely accepted to be an important communication skill.
‘However, the reverence devoted it is not supported by scientific evidence.’
© Daily Mail