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)
We generally avoid direct eye contact if we are:
- 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
- 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?
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.