Have you ever wondered why someone is afraid to look you in the eye? New research that appeared in the British Psychological Society's Research Digest found that looking someone in the eye might make us more physically aware of ourselves, which could be uncomfortable for some.
A research team led by the neuropsychologist Matias Baltazar, found a correlation between making eye contact and feeling self-conscious. That's because when someone's looking right at us, we're more likely to think about what they're seeing.
Thirty-two participants in the study were given a series of positive and negative images on a computer screen and asked to rate their emotional reactions to each. Each image was a photograph of a man or a woman’s face that was either looking directly at the camera, as if making eye contact, or away. The participants were hooked up to a machine that measures the sweatiness of their fingers, to record their emotional reaction.
Research Digest has more:
"The participants' accuracy at judging their own physiological reactions was more accurate for those images that followed a photograph that appeared to be making eye contact. "Our results support the view that human adults' bodily awareness becomes more acute when they are subjected to another's gaze," the researchers said.
And not only was the performance enhancing aspect of eye contact increased, but Baltazar and his team also noted that self-awareness could have direct therapeutic implications on the health of our bodies as well.
They said it could "stimulate interoceptive awareness in people whose condition is associated with interoceptive hyposensitivity, [such as] anorexia nervosa and major depression disorder."
In short, body awareness is amplified when someone is looking right at you. So if you strive for self-awareness and making eye contact helps us become more aware of our selves and our bodies, then why not look people in the eye next time you have a conversation? Sure, it might be a little bit uncomfortable, but it will help you grow.
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