Eye Contact Makes People Resistant To Persuasion
Although you may consider eye contact to be an effective way of carrying a conversation and ultimately bringing the listener around to your point of view, research suggests that it may actually have the opposite effect.
Lead researcher Frances Chen who conducted the studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany said;
“There is a lot of cultural lore about the power of eye contact as an influence tool, but our findings show that direct eye contact makes sceptical listeners less likely to change their minds, not more, as previously believed.”
The researchers took advantage of recently developed eye-tracking technology in situations involving persuasion. They found that the more time participants spent looking at a speaker’s eyes while watching a video, the less persuaded they were by the speaker’s argument – participants’ attitudes on various controversial issues shifted less if they spent more time focusing on the speaker’s eyes.
Spending more time looking at the speaker’s eyes was only associate with greater receptiveness to the speaker’s opinion among participants whoa already agreed with the speaker’s opinion in that issue.
A second study, done by researchers of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, confirm these findings.
Participants who were told to look at the speaker’s eyes, displayed less of a shift in attitudes than those participants who were told to look at the speaker’s mouth. It showed that participants who looked at the speaker’s eyes were less receptive to the arguments and less open to interaction with the advocates of the opposing views, and were therefore more difficult to persuade.
Both studies suggest that although eye contact may be a sign of connection and trust in friendly situations, it’s more likely to be associated with dominance or intimidation in adversarial situations.
The researchers are planning to look at whether eye contact may be associated with certain patterns of brain activity, the release of stress hormones and increase in heart rate during persuasion attempt.