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Here Is Why People Cannot Maintain Eye Contact

First Posted: Dec 29, 2016 03:18 AM EST

Eye contact is considered as one of the most essential non-verbal cues. To maintain the gaze often means confidence, honesty, persuasion, sincerity, focused attention or for love hunters -- flirting. While people say there is more to life than meets the eye, a new study says there is indeed a lot going on in the brain when people talk eye-to-eye.

Medical Daily reported that scientists at Kyoto University found out why some people would avoid eye contact when conversing with others. While some perceive it as lying or being awkward, the study published in the journal Cognition says looking away could help people find the right words to say.

According to researchers, eye contact and verbal processing "share cognitive resources." This means that the brain is doing extra work when a person is looking into someone's eyes while trying to retrieve and select the appropriate word from his or her vocabulary at the same time.

For the study, Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura had 26 participants play the word association game at different levels of difficulty. Some had to look a photo straight in the eye while others were allowed to look away. The researchers found out that those who maintained eye contact came up with the right words in difficult levels slower than those who did not.

"Although eye contact and verbal processing appear independent, people frequently avert their eyes from interlocutors during conversation. This suggests that there is interference between these processes," the researchers wrote in the study's abstract.

"In the present experiment, viewing a movie of faces with eyes directed toward the viewer delayed verbal generation more than a movie of faces with averted eyes," they explained. "This further indicates that a full understanding of functional and dysfunctional communication must consider the interaction and interference of verbal and non-verbal channels."

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