Eye contact promotes good communication, according to a new study. It shows that making eye contact repeatedly when you're talking to someone makes your conversation more engaging.
The study findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers investigated the link between eye contact and pupillary synchrony in a natural conversation. The participants were asked to wear eye-tracking glasses and sit across from each other and communicate for 10 minutes. They were told to talk about whatever they wanted.
Then, the two participants were asked to watch the conversation that they just had and to continuously rate how engaged they were.
The research team analyzed how pupillary synchrony works with eye contact. They found that people make eye contact as pupillary synchrony is at its peak. Pupillary synchrony then immediately decreases and recovers only after breaking eye contact once again. They also discovered an association between instances of eye contact and higher levels of engagement during the conversation.
According to the research, it has been assumed that eye contact creates synchrony but that’s not true. We make eye contact when we are already in sync.
"Conversation is a creative act in which people build a shared story from independent voices." Wheatley adds, "Moments of eye contact seem to signal when we have achieved shared understanding and need to contribute our independent voice," says senior author Thalia Wheatley, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth.