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Posted by bio_man   October 5, 2019   328 views

Have you ever felt awkward staring into a person's eyes while holding up a conversation? It turns out that there is a good scientific reason why some of us struggle with this. Research tells us that staring while trying to come up with the right words actually uses the same mental resources as sustaining eye contact.

Scientists from Kyoto University in Japan put this to the test in 2016 by having 26 volunteers play word association games while staring at computer-generated faces. When making eye contact, the participants found it harder to come up with links between words, suggesting that there is interference between these processes.

The volunteers were tested while looking at both animations of faces making eye contact and animations of faces looking away. They were also asked to think of links between easily associated words and words where there are a lot of competing associations; the latter proved much harder to do.

"Although eye contact and verbal processing appear independent, people frequently avert their eyes from interlocutors during conversation," wrote the researchers. So while making eye contact and holding a conversation is certainly possible, this is evidence that they can both draw on the same pool of cognitive resources.

In 2015, Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo demonstrated that staring into someone else's eyes for just 10 minutes induced an altered state of consciousness. Participants saw hallucinations of monsters, their relatives, and even their own faces.

It seems that a process called neural adaptation is the cause, where our brains gradually alter their response to a stimulus that doesn't change – so when you put your hand on a table, you immediately feel it, but that feeling lessens as you keep your hand there.

Therefore, if someone looks away while they're talking to you, they might not be being rude – they could just have an overloaded cognitive system.

Source https://www.sciencealert.com/this-is-why-it-s-so-weird-to-maintain-eye-contact-while-having-a-conversation

Staring Conversations Japan Mental processing psychology
Posted in Research
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