Our Eyes: Windows Into Our Souls

It has been said the eyes are the windows to our souls, and writers accordingly pay close attention to what a character does with her eyes.

Unfortunately, emerging writers often rely too much on the standard look/glance/gaze between characters to convey thought, desire, and emotion.

As I prepared for a writing workshop at the fabulous Write on the Sound writing conference this past weekend, I did some research about how eye contact works in real life, and in so doing I read some interesting theories that I shared with my workshop participants and that I also intend to test out over the coming weeks.

According to experts in human behavior, we generally look for direct eye contact if we are:

  • Looking for feedback
  • Expressing desire for further communication (e.g. from across a crowded room or bar)
  • Showing our intention to dominate or threaten
  • Talking (75% of talkers want direct eye contact)
  • Female

We generally avoid direct eye contact if we are:

  • Thinking
  • Within six feet of a stranger
  • About to make a confession
  • Standing next to someone and doing something together side by side (e.g. washing dishes)
  • Listening (only 40% of listeners make direct eye contact)
  • Socially anxious
  • Male
  • Talking with a disabled person or someone we deem unattractive

Other factors that influence eye contact between people include:

  • Ethnicity and cultural background
  • Feelings of boredom or superiority

Did you know:

  • People who wear sunglasses, like police officers, might do so to avoid eye contact and/or confrontation?
  • Our pupils dilate when our emotions are aroused?
  • We blink when we are nervous or lying?

Version 2If our eyes really are windows into our souls, then understanding if, how, and when we look at one another is critical to interpreting what we see when we do look through those windows.


For more info, check out The Secrets of Eye Contact, Revealed or The Power of Eye Contact: Your Secret for Success in Business, Love, and Life.

Click the links if you'd like to share!

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