Eye contact is your first step in initiating communication, and your eye gaze conveys what’s important to you. Eye contact can draw in people’s attention. As humans, we’re attracted to faces and particularly other people’s eyes. Looking at someone’s eyes reveals information you automatically decode. You might perceive some eye gazes as welcoming and inviting, while others can seem uncomfortable or perhaps threatening.
Eye contact influences social exchanges and your body’s reaction to those exchanges. And what’s considered “normal” can depend on your culture and location. You might judge other people based on their eye contact, and they might react similarly to you. In North America, for example, direct eye contact tends to signal your intention to engage in an interaction. Prolonged eye contact can activate your nervous system, making you more excited and alert as well. Your eye contact also can influence how others judge your truthfulness and persuasive abilities during discussions. In the U.S., if you avoid eye contact, it might be interpreted as a lack of interest in talking or even that you’re trying to hide something. However, in East Asian cultures, it’s typical to make and sustain eye contact less frequently.
Where you focus your eyes tells others about your interests, intentions, and goals. People are more likely to look each other in the eyes or at each other’s faces when they feel love, respect, or admiration towards each other. In comparison, eye gazes towards someone’s body are more likely to indicate lust or sexual attraction.
Eye contact is part of communicating and connecting with others. For example, initiating eye contact can help make your apology more effective. And it’s a part of confirming your partner’s consent during sex. Eye contact with parents also helps newborns’ brains develop, and it helps them feel comforted and attached to their moms and dads. Use eye contact to connect with someone you care about and further communication with those around you.