A person shifting their gaze can give scientists an indication of whether that person is thinking about love or lust. That, of course, depends on what a person scans as their eyes travel about in search of what to look at and why, for example, viewing an image of people looking at each other, or looking directly back at the person viewing the picture. Volunteers in a study were asked questions as to what they thought the motives of the people in photographs were. A distinction was made by the volunteers as to whether the people in the images were involved in a relationship or not. Where a person looked when viewing such images was also part of the research associated with this study. Eye movement indicates whether a person is seeing lust or love in an image: it is a matter of where one looks.
A research project conducted by the University of Chicago at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, offered a series of images to a group of student volunteers who were asked to indicate what they saw in the images. It was discovered that eye patterns indicate whether a person is thinking about love or lust, depending on where they look. If they gaze at a face the signal given is more in favor of romantic love, but if their eye movement travels around the body it demonstrates a sexual desire. This perception occurs within a second of the eye movement.
In less time than it takes to speak, a person has already made a judgement about feelings of love or lust, based solely on where their eyes travel when viewing images of individuals or couples interacting with each other, a snap judgement by the mind based on visual information. All this data was formulated to produce a conclusion based on eye movement patterns.
Not much is known about the science of love at first sight, or the why and how of falling in love, as extensive studies have not been performed. Eye pattern feedback furnishes information concerning what the eye unconsciously notices, giving different signals for thoughts of love or thoughts of desire towards others who are strangers. Eye gaze patterns are basically a judgement of another for whether or not that person could be loved or just desired for sex. Love or lust, the eye only sees the desire, but science can see a pattern.
Stephanie Cacioppo, lead author of this study, is also the director of the UChicago High Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory. Cacioppo collaborated with partner staff from UChicago’s Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, and the University of Geneva. To arrive at the conclusions in this study, two separate experiments were conducted.
Students from the University of Geneva looked at a sequence of black and white images of people. The first set of images consisted of opposite sex couples either engaged with each other in an activity or looking at each other. The second set of images consisted of good-looking individuals of the opposite sex staring at the viewer.
The viewing of the images took place while gazing at a computer screen of the images. The volunteers were instructed to make judgements about love or sex concerning the images as quickly as possible. There was no significant difference in the time it took for the volunteers to decide if it was romantic love or lust (sexual desire).
Data obtained from the eye tracking movements displayed pronounced contrasts in eye movement patterns. Both female and male students were inclined to stare at the face when the image prompted a feeling of romantic love. Pictures that summoned sexual desire elicited eye movements that shifted from the face and moved to the rest of the body. Tracking eye movements to determine feelings of love or lust may be the key to future questions concerning parts of the brain connected with attraction.
By Andy Towle