Persuasive Power of Eye Contact May Be a Myth, Study Suggests10/03/13
THURSDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new study challenges the
common belief that making eye contact when trying to bring someone
around to your point of view can help your cause.
Eye contact in such situations may actually make people more
resistant to persuasion, especially if they already disagree with
your stance, according to the findings released online Sept. 25 in
advance of print publication in the journal
"There is a lot of cultural lore about the power of eye contact as an influence tool," study author Frances Chen, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said in a university news release. "But our findings show that direct eye contact makes skeptical listeners less likely to change their minds, not more, as previously believed."
Chen and colleagues used eye-tracking technology to assess the
effects of eye contact in a series of experiments involving people
trying to get others to adopt their point of view.
The more that people watched a speaker's eyes, the less
persuaded they were by that person's arguments. A greater amount of
eye contact was only associated with greater receptiveness when
people already agreed with the speaker on an issue, the
The researchers also noted that people were more likely to find
speakers convincing if they focused on the mouth rather than the
The findings indicated that eye contact can signal different
kinds of messages depending on the situation. The study authors
pointed out that while eye contact may be a sign of connection or
trust in friendly situations between people, it is an important
part of competitive or hostile encounters among primates and other
"Whether you're a politician or a parent, it might be helpful to remember that trying to maintain eye contact may backfire if you're trying to convince someone who has a different set of beliefs than you," study co-author Julia Minson, of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, said in the news release.
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