Using eye-tracking technology, researchers at the University of Freiburg observed test subjects as they watched videos of speakers discussing certain political issues. They found that the longer the viewers focused on the speaker’s eyes, particularly if the speaker was looking directly into the camera, the less convinced they were of the argument. Those who disagreed with the speaker’s argument, or who had no opinion on the topic, were left even more unconvinced than those who agreed.
What’s the Big Idea?
The importance of direct eye contact in business and personal interactions has been stressed for decades. The study findings, published in Psychological Science, suggest that in some cases, it’s not always a good idea. The reason may have to do with evolution: Eye contact among certain animals signals aggression and the creation of “a social dynamic characterized by resistance to persuasion.” Further demonstrating this point is a separate experiment in which participants were given a choice of looking at a speaker’s eyes or their mouth. Those who looked at the speaker’s mouth were more persuaded by the argument.