A new study recently suggested that making or breaking eye contact while conversing with another individual makes the conversation more engaging.

According to a report from The Free Press Journal, making recurring eye contact when talking to another person is common, but the question now pertains to people, exactly why they are doing it.

Based on the results of a new Dartmouth research, when two people are conversing, eye contact occurs in times of "shared attention" when two people are engaged, with their pupils dilating in synchrony as an outcome.

In a similar report, Psychology Today said, the study's lead author, Sophie Wohltjen, a graduate student in psychological and brains sciences at Dartmouth said, eye contact is certainly "immersive and powerful."

She also said that when two people are conversing with each other, eye contact signals "shared attention high" that they are in peak synchrony with one another.

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Science Times - Eye Contact: Research Reveals How It Makes Conversation More Engaging; Leads To Good Communication
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Eye contact is made when people are already in sync, and, if anything, it appears to help and then break that particular synchrony.

Eye Contact

As eye contact persists, explained Wohltjen, there then, a decrease in synchrony. She added that they think this is good since too much synchrony can make a conversation stale.

Essentially, continued the lead author, an engaging conversation needs to be on the same page and sometimes say something new.

Eye contact, she elaborated, appears to be one way a shared space is created while at the same time allowing space for new ideas.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth professor of psychological and brain sciences Thalia Wheatley, the study's senior author and principal investigator of Dartmouth Social Systems Laboratory, said, previously, it has been believed that eye contact is creating synchrony, although the findings propose that it is not that simple.

Whitley explained, eye contact is made when people are already in sync, and, if anything, it appears to help and then break that particular synchrony.

More so, continued the senior author, eye contact may advantageously disrupt synchrony momentarily to allow for a new notion or thought.

Link Between Eye Contact and Pupillary Synchrony Examined

A pair of students from Dartmouth were taken into the laboratory to investigate the link between eye contact and pupillary synchrony in natural communication.

While they wore eye-tracking glasses and sat across from each other, the pair were asked to converse for 10 minutes. Their conversation was recorded via audio and video recording. During their 10-minute conversation, the volunteers could talk about any topic they wanted to discuss.

After conversing, the pair were separated into different rooms. They were asked to watch the recording, and from there, they continuously rated how engaged they were in their conversation.

The researchers looked at the manner pupillary synchrony was increasing and decreasing occurrences of eye contact. As a result, it was found that people are making eye contact as pupillary synchrony is at its peak.

Then, pupillary synchrony was found to have decreased immediately, only recovering again when eye contact was broken.

Eye Contact and Good Communication

The date also presented an association between eye contact occurrences and higher engagement levels during the conversation.

Describing conversation, according to EurekAlert!, Wheatley said, is a "creative act in which people" are building a shared story from independent voices, not to mention developing interpersonal relationships.

She elaborated that moments of eye contact appear to signal when one people achieved shared understanding and needed to contribute our independent voice."

The team's results of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are consistent with other studies, illustrating how periodically breaking synchrony can enable creativity, not to mention individual exploration.

Related information is shown on ICONIQ Psychology's YouTube video below:


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