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February 01, 2011

Importance of Eyes

When it comes to talking about body language, eyes are given an enourmous importance. Looking at eyes and looking into eyes of each other is subconscious and it starts from early childhood when a mother and a child are locked into an intimate eye contact. Eyes and their movements are controlled by the most primitive parts of our brain so they don't miss to convey an array of emotions, feelings, intentions and moods.

It’s undoubtedly true that Eyes are the windows of the soul. Romantic poets, photographers, painters, classical dancers and artists have a lot more to mull over them than the rest of us. Without eyes on the face, we can hardly imagine about communicating with the outer world in the first place. Matter of fact is that eyes start taking shape before any others facial features in fetal stage.

Eyes not only collect an enormous amount of visual information from outside world but also express emotions, intentions, motives, feelings and cognitive states. Biological construction of eyes is way more complex in comparison to some parts of human brain itself. Eyes are crucial sensory organs for every creature that got evolved with it and almost every creature on earth have eyes.

Looking at each other is an inevitable part of every face-to-face confrontation and communication. Basically, looking at the other person or looking at each other can be anything like attracting, getting attracted, sympathizing, respecting, surrendering, dominating, threatening, interrogating, invoking, attacking, stopping or permitting to enter into private space depending upon facial expressions, neck position, gestures and postures.

Even if two persons are not looking at each other directly or into each others' eyes, batting of eyelids by them clearly signifies they both have noticed presence of each other through their peripheral (secondary) vision. Also, batting an eyelid once or in a few repetitions is an unconscious expression or reaction out of fear, submission, insecurity or respect towards a (complete) stranger or a known person.

Especially, an elongated and direct eye contact exchanged by two different individuals sparks the neural pathway that triggers the primitive defense mechanism and it prepares our whole body for an emergency. We have to decide either to approach/face or back off from the person who is directly looking at us or into our eyes with some kind of motive, intention or drive.

Generally, we avoid long lasting gaze at strangers to avoid aggression or reprisal from them since they are not fully aware with our nature, intentions or motives until getting acquainted. However, looking directly at something or somebody (with completely expressionless face and without batting eyelids) over a long time indirectly suggests that something is really troubling internally or externally.

In very close and intimate relationships, considerably longer, comfortable and frequent eye contact is the key for retaining mutual interest, sympathy, confidence and trust. In the initials stages of courtship, only eye contact regulates the direction, pace and progress of relationship formation. Unlike apparent and easily detectable hand gestures, eyes can send signals to indented receivers without being noticed by others.

We commonly experience that a steady gaze with non-threatening facing expressions like smile, (slightly) titled neck and slightly raised eyebrows with wide open eyes for a second or so is an irresistibly interest invoking facial gesture. Also, this gesture can be easily sensed or detected from a few feet away. Smile makes this entire gesture threat-free.

This is a genetically hardwired social ritual for letting others feel secure, safe and comfortable while confronting face-to-face or sighting alongside. However, an accidental short lasting gaze or glance should not be considered as signal of attraction or hostility. Actually, facial expressions and especially eyebrows give the clear clue.

Bedroom eyes or dilated pupils and Beady eyes or contracted pupils are wisely capitalized by commercial advertisers. Pupils get automatically dilated when subconscious mind (limbic brain) finds someone or something worth interesting, appealing, agreeable or attractive. Pupils get contracted when aggression, anger, disinterest and hostility takes control of our minds.

Physiologically, pupil dilation is also subjected to amount of light it receives at any given moment. Pupils dilate in darkness whereas they contract in bright light. However, candle light dinner is an illusionary effort to induce attraction or affection since pupils automatically dilate receiving low light.

Our brains are hardwired to get attracted to a person (especially of an opposite gender) with the dilated pupils. That's the very reason why the restaurant and coffee shop owners purposefully create and reserve low illuminated areas for couples for helping in inducing arousal and romantic feelings in them during the time spent by paying for the private physical space.

Gaze held at the line of sight and comfortably meeting with others' eyes symbolizes social, confident, friendly and open approach whereas gaze hovering on face or other body parts below it convey reserved, aggressive, awkward and intimate feelings. Unsteady gaze and eye contact might be subjected to mental instability, uncertainty or inability to regulate emotions.

3 Types of Directed Gaze

Women are more comfortable with considerably the direct, prolonged and steady eye contact since they are more sympathetic, social and diplomatic. They seek trust, confidence in and assurance from others. Men's nervousness or lack of confidence in meeting the eyes with the women might generate feelings of insecurity, distrust and uncertainty in the women.

Unlike the women, most men like their male counterparts from most of the other animal species are guardians of their own geographical territories and also they follow social hierarchy. Hence they mostly avoid direct, prolonged and steady eye contact until it’s a friendly encounter with other men or a flirtatious encounter with the women.

During a conversation, avoiding an eye contact (with the person who speaks) shows aversion, disagreement, withdrawal, lack of attention or even disrespect. Moderately dropped and averted gaze can be attributed to submissiveness, disappointment, doubtfulness, disagreement and lack of confidence, low self-esteem or depression.

Related articles:
1) Cognitive clues from eyeball movements 2) Primary Attraction 3) Man's Courtship Body Language 4) Woman's Courtship Body Language (Part 1) 5) Woman's Courtship Body Language (Part 2) 6) Positive Body Language 7) Making true friends 8) Importance of Touch 9) Face to Face 10) Know Who is Attracted to You 11) Language of Eyes


  1. Firstly, we can say that non-verbal communication is important in expressing our emotions. Emotions such as happy, satisfied, confident, surprised, eager, tired, stressed, sad etc.

    These are almost all expressed through different body gestures and face. We are able to understand each other up on judging each other's expression.

    For example if someone cries, it indicate that something has happened to him or her and others will be able to help it.

    Source: iEduNote

  2. Hey, great info!

    Do you have any academic references to this?

    == John ==


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