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Making eye contact with sceptics may make you less persuasive

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Making eye contact with sceptics may make you less persuasive
Making eye contact with sceptics may make you less persuasive

Washington – It is a well documented fact that making eye contact is an effective way of drawing a listener’s attention, however a new study has suggested that eye contact may actually make people more resistant to persuasion, especially when they already disagree.

Lead researcher Frances Chen, who conducted the studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany, said that their findings showed that direct eye contact makes sceptical listeners less likely to change their minds, not more, as previously believed.

To investigate the effects of eye contact in situations involving persuasion, Chen and colleagues used eye-tracking technology and 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- that is, participants’ attitudes on various controversial issues shifted less as they spent more time focusing on the speaker’s eyes.

Spending more time looking at the speaker’s eyes was only associated with greater receptiveness to the speaker’s opinion among participants who already agreed with the speaker’s opinion on that issue.

The results of a second experimental study, which confirmed these findings, 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 thus more difficult to persuade.

According to Julia Minson of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, co-lead researcher of the studies, the findings highlight the fact that eye contact can signal very different kinds of messages depending on the situation. While eye contact may be a sign of connection or trust in friendly situations, it’s more likely to be associated with dominance or intimidation in adversarial situations.

The study is published in journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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