How Long Can You Hold Eye Contact?

Whether you’re sitting across a table at a fancy restaurant with a first date or telling a prospective employer how you work great by yourself and as part of a team, eye contact is important. That doesn’t seem to make it any less uncomfortable for some people. If you’ve ever struggled to hold another person’s stare for more than a few seconds at a time, you’re not alone. A recent study, published in Royal Society Open Science has determined that the “preferred gaze” is 3.3 seconds.

In the study, the 498 participants had to watch the video below of a woman staring into the camera. They were told to make eye contact and press a button when they felt uncomfortable. Try the video for yourself!

While the researchers noted that staring at a screen is not a perfect replacement for real-world interaction, the results are certainly enlightening. In addition to the personal feelings of uneasiness, there are physical cues. Pupil dilation impacts willingness to maintain a gaze. Our pupils dilate whenever we look at someone, but the faster they dilate, the more willing we are to maintain eye contact with someone.

Eye contact produces a powerful, subconscious connection even in pictures and photographs. This was demonstrated by other researchers at Cornell University. They altered the gaze of a character on a series of cereal boxes and asked adults to choose a box. Unsurprisingly, the one most often picked was the box with the character looking directly them, rather than away.

Eye Contact Is Vital To Human Interaction

People respond to others who appear to be sexually attracted to them. Historically, women would drop belladonna plant extract into their eyes to cause pupil dilation and, consequently as it turned out, horrible vision problems. This was a painful and dangerous process but was considered worth it to attract men.

Eye contact is an essential part of human social interaction. We pick up so much information through visual stimuli and interpreting unspoken gestures has been a key factor in our development as a social and intelligent species. Eye contact is also important in determining the state of someone’s faculties. Evidence of abnormal eye contact levels (whether too much or not enough), are often used as part of an emotional or behavioural diagnosis.

We draw so much information from the eyes, which is why we find it difficult to speak with people who are wearing sunglasses . Without access to the eyes, there is something unsettlingly uncanny in speaking to another person. Also, we reduce eye contact when we are ashamed or embarrassed, sad, or when accessing internal thoughts.

It’s also interesting to note that we increase eye contact when speaking with people we like, or who have power over us. The greater the eye contact the closer we judge our relationships to be.

Eye contact is an essential aspect of our social interactions. That’s why you need to make sure that your eyes are healthy and well looked after.

Contact Eyesite today to book an appointment with one of our optometrists who are happy to help you maintain healthy eyes.