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Eyes: Mimicking Pupils May Boost Trust

First Posted: Aug 03, 2015 10:32 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Psychological Science reveal that pupil mimicking can boost trust.

The latest study involved 61 students from a Dutch University who were asked to view short video clips of their partners. Then, participants had to determine if they should transfer 5 Euros or 0 Euros and were told that their investment would be tripled if their partner would decide the portion to give back to the participant.

However, participants were unaware that the video clip was actually a manipulated image of a pair of eyes programed to dilate, constrict or remain static throughout the span of just about four seconds.

Findings showed that participants were more likely to trust participants whose pupils dilated during the experiment. Eye tracking data also revealed that participants were likely to mimic their partners' pulls--whether constricting or dilating. Lastly, for study participants who mimicked their partners dilating pupils, they were more likely than other participants to invest money. However, this was only the case when the partner had a Western European appearance.

"People generally underestimate the importance of pupils, despite the fact that we look into them each day. The pupil provides a rich source of social information -- we can force a smile, but we can't force our pupils to dilate or constrict," says psychological scientist Mariska Kret of Leiden University, lead author on the study, in a news release. "Our findings show that humans synchronize their pupil size with others and this behavior -- over which we have no voluntary control -- influences social decisions."

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