Science Reveals the Ideal Amount of Eye Contact to Have

August 5th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Eye contact is a big deal — socially and professionally. But how long do you have to stare into someone's eyes before the nonverbal exchange just gets awkward?

The beauty of science is that it sometimes yields answers to eccentric questions. A team of researchers at University College London took up the eye contact challenge and published its findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Researchers visited the London Science Museum and asked nearly 500 people from 56 different countries to participate in an experiment: Participants sat in front of a screen while an actor or actress stared blankly at them for anywhere between a 10th of a second to 10 seconds. Their pupils were measured for dilation, and they were asked to rate their level of comfort.

It turns out that the ideal amount of eye contact is three seconds.

If you stare at someone for two to five seconds, that's the average comfort zone. But holding eye contact for one second or less — or nine seconds or more — is apparently unpleasant for most humans.

"Surprisingly, we find that preferred period of gaze duration is not dependent on fundamental characteristics, such as gender, personality traits, or attractiveness," the study authors wrote. They also noted that eye contact is a strikingly understudied topic, considering the fact that "deviations from this pattern of gazing behavior generally make us feel uncomfortable and are a defining characteristic of clinical conditions, such as autism or schizophrenia."

[h/t How Stuff Works]

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