Eyes are the window to dissonance

Here’s an interesting little fact: the average human can recognize eye contact with another human from a distance of 30-40 meters.  Obviously we cannot infer very much from that kind of distance, however, the fact that we can recognize eye contact from that far away points to the necessity of eye contact in every day life.

Eyes can dictate an enormous amount of information about a person.  A simple eye movement can predict whether or not a person is lying, whether the person is feeling regret or happiness, whether the person is sad or angry.  The human eye is one of the most reliable indicators of emotion we have, which is why people who make eye contact with us appear to be more trusting.

Dissonance occurs when a person portrays an emotion that do not truly feel.  For whatever reason or desired effect, the person has chosen to move and respond in a certain way to fake an emotional response.  Knowing when someone is experiencing dissonance is eye to understanding people and being a good friend.

Let’s imagine for a second that your girlfriend or boyfriend is frustrated with you.  Instead of confronting you about a problem they have with your behavior, they choose to put on a front and act happy and content.  Generally you will have a sense of when dissonance occurs, but if you aren’t sure, you might need some extra help deciphering your partner’s emotions.

The key: eye contact.  Very rarely can people lie with their eyes.  Body language is not always accurate or telling for people with incredible self-control.  However, most people cannot control their eye movement with any degree of precision.

I copied a table here from BusinessBalls.com, a site that deals with business networking and interaction.  It is a list of the recognized movements of the eye and what they could mean.

signal part of body possible
detailed explanation
 Left and right are for the person giving the signals and making the movements.
looking right (generally) eyes creating, fabricating, guessing, lying, storytelling Creating here is basically making things up and saying them. Depending on context this can indicate lying, but in other circumstances, for example, storytelling to a child, this would be perfectly normal. Looking right and down indicates accessing feelings, which again can be a perfectly genuine response or not, depending on the context, and to an extent the person.
looking left (generally) eyes recalling, remembering, retrieving ‘facts’ Recalling and and then stating ‘facts’ from memory in appropriate context often equates to telling the truth. Whether the ‘facts’ (memories) are correct is another matter. Left downward looking indicates silent self-conversation or self-talk, typically in trying to arrive at a view or decision.
looking right and up eyes visual imagining, fabrication, lying Related to imagination and creative (right-side) parts of the brain, this upwards right eye-movement can be a warning sign of fabrication if a person is supposed to be recalling and stating facts.
looking right sideways eyes imagining sounds Sideways eye movements are believed to indicate imagining (right) or recalling (left) sounds, which can include for example a person imagining or fabricating what another person has said or could say.
looking right and down eyes accessing feelings This is a creative signal but not a fabrication – it can signal that the person is self-questioning their feelings about something. Context particularly- and other signals – are important for interpreting more specific meaning about this signal.
looking left and up eyes recalling images truthfulness Related to accessing memory in the brain, rather than creating or imagining. A reassuring sign if signalled when the person is recalling and stating facts.
looking left sideways eyes recalling or remembering sounds Looking sideways suggests sounds; looking left suggests recalling or remembering – not fabricating or imagining. This therefore could indicate recalling what has been said by another person.
looking left down eyes self-talking, rationalizing Thinking things through by self-talk – concerning an outward view, rather than the inward feelings view indicated by downward right looking.
direct eye contact (when speaking) eyes honesty – or faked honesty Direct eye contact is generally regarded as a sign of truthfulness, however practised liars know this and will fake the signal.
direct eye contact (when listening) eyes attentiveness, interest, attraction Eyes which stay focused on the speakers eyes, tend to indicate focused interested attention too, which is normally a sign of attraction to the person and/or the subject.
widening eyes eyes interest, appeal, invitation Widening the eyes generally signals interest in something or someone, and often invites positive response. Widened eyes with raised eyebrows can otherwise be due to shock, but aside from this, widening eyes represents an opening and welcoming expression. In women especially widened eyes tend to increase attractiveness, which is believed by some body language experts to relate to the eye/face proportions of babies, and the associated signals of attraction and prompting urges to protect and offer love and care, etc.
rubbing eye or eyes eyes disbelief, upset, or tiredness Rubbing eyes or one eye can indicate disbelief, as if checking the vision, or upset, in which the action relates to crying, or tiredness, which can be due boredom, not necessarily a need for sleep. If the signal is accompanied by a long pronounced blink, this tends to support the tiredness interpretation.
eye shrug eyes frustration An upward roll of the eyes signals frustration or exasperation, as if looking to the heavens for help.
pupils dilated (enlarged) eyes attraction, desire The pupil is the black centre of the eye which opens or closes to let in more or less light. Darkness causes pupils to dilate. So too, for some reason does seeing something appealing or attractive. The cause of the attraction depends on the situation. In the case of sexual attraction the effect can be mutual – dilated pupils tend to be more appealing sexually that contracted ones, perhaps because of an instinctive association with darkness, night-time, bedtime, etc., although the origins of this effect are unproven. Resist the temptation to imagine that everyone you see with dilated pupils is sexually attracted to you.
blinking frequently eyes excitement, pressure Normal human blink rate is considered to be between six and twenty times a minute, depending on the expert. Significantly more than this is a sign of excitement or pressure. Blink rate can increase to up to a hundred times a minute. Blink rate is not a reliable sign of lying.
blinking infrequently eyes various Infrequent blink rate can mean different things and so offers no single clue unless combined with other signals. An infrequent blink rate is probably due to boredom if the eyes are not focused, or can be the opposite – concentration – if accompanied with a strongly focused gaze. Infrequent blink rate can also be accompanied by signals of hostility or negativity, and is therefore not the most revealing of body language signals.
eyebrow raising (eyebrow ‘flash’) eyes greeting, recognition, acknowledgement Quickly raising and lowering the eyebrows is called an ‘eyebrow flash’. It is a common signal of greeting and acknowledgement, and is perhaps genetically influenced since it is prevalent in monkeys (body language study does not sit entirely happily alongside creationism). Fear and surprise are also signalled by the eyebrow flash, in which case the eyebrows normally remain raised for longer, until the initial shock subsides.
winking eyes friendly acknowledgement, complicity (e.g., sharing a secret or joke) Much fuss was made in May 2007 when George W Bush winked at the Queen. The fuss was made because a wink is quite an intimate signal, directed exclusively from one person to another, and is associated with male flirting. It is strange that a non-contact wink can carry more personal implications than a physical handshake, and in many situations more than a kiss on the cheek. A wink is given additional spice if accompanied by a click of the tongue. Not many people can carry it off. Additionally – and this was partly the sense in which Bush used it – a wink can signal a shared joke or secret.

In case it wasn’t clear, these eye movements are subtle and incredibly specific/confusing at times.  Don’t worry, because very few people have the ability to read eye movements this quickly or accurately.  However, this information interests those of us who have been lied to or cheated in the past.  Looking up and to the right implies visual imagination, and could mean that a person has chosen to lie to you.  Pupil dilation almost always means desire or attraction, and generally when a person looks to the left they are accessing real emotions and experiences.

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The Benefits of Being Happy


We all know those outrageously and sometimes obnoxiously happy people.  They are spread out throughout our lives, dispersed among us like small little suns that never seen to burn out.

Research suggests that these people are far more likely to succeed than any other.  Their levels of “positive affect”, or a wide range of positive feelings within them, are higher than average.  A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a correlation between people with high positive affect, and students who received internships or apprenticeships as well as career offerings.

Questionnaires were given to high school students just before they graduated and at regular intervals throughout the college process.  Students who experienced high positive affect consistently were found to be more successful.

In the survey, at each time point, researchers used statistical analysis to analyze the amount of effort the students put towards their careers.  The research showed the positive affect was the second most important factor in determining how much effort a student put into his or her career.  The only thing more important was previous effort (which logically makes sense).

So what does this say about happy people?  First, they are more likely to get a job or internship than those who have lower positive affect.  Second, They are more likely to pursue their goals with a greater dedication and intensity.

I guess now would be a great time to get happier.  More on that later.

For the full article: Happy People Succeed

Human Genome project meets the Human Brain

A lot of you main know of the Human Genome Project, which attempted to map out every single gene in the human genome and find its function and importance.

Recently, the Obama administration drafted a plan for a 10-year science initiative that would study the billions of neurons in the brain, similarly finding the function and importance of each.

Over the next decade, the project is estimated to cost upwards of $3 billion dollars, involving the both federal and private agencies/foundations such as Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm.

Research such as this will not only further our fight against diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but also further our discovery of a wide range of mental illnesses.

This announcement was rumored in the New York Times, and raises some interesting questions.

What will uncover about the most mysterious part of our bodies?  And what types of radical research and discovery will evolve from an initiative of this size?  One can only imagine.

Can reading fiction affect social interaction?

An article in the Globe and Mail cited a study suggesting that fiction can cure social ailments.

Readers of fiction, specifically narrative fiction, tend to be more empathetic, and tend to have higher “social acumen” than those readers of non-fiction.  Readers of short stories tended to do better on social reasoning tests than readers of essays or articles.

To quote the article:

“Those benefits, researchers say, may be because fiction acts as a type of simulator   Reading about make-believe people having make-believe adventures or whirlwind romances may actually help people navigate those trials in real life.”

I suppose this makes sense.  After all, when we read fiction, we place ourselves into the lives of the characters and their plights.  We follow the story as if we were in it, as if we were the ones making the decisions and seeing them through.  Because of this, we gain a sort of experience similar to the experiences of our real lives.

Fiction allows us to practice for real life.  For that reason, reading fiction allows us to benefit socially, while also enjoying a pretty fantastic tale.

Here’s a link to the article information.

Are we attracted to awkward people?


Every once in a while, we end up in an awkward situation, and we have to choose between moving on with our lives and commenting on it.  These moments are sporadic and spontaneous, and almost entirely outside of our control.

However, this idea of “awkwardness” might not be a bad thing.  In fact, writer Jen Kim believes that society has become attracted to awkwardness.

Just think about it.  Shows such as Arrested Development and Big Bang Theory rake in TV viewership, while actors such as Michael Cera (Superbad) and Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street) bring crowds to the theaters with every new release.  Americans seem to have an addiction to awkward young boys with a sense of humor.

But why might this be?  Why are we so attracted to socially awkward people?

Kim suggests that awkwardness is “non-threatening and entertaining.  The awkward guy will never hurt or try to cheat you.  He’s not smooth, he doesn’t play games, he’s even sincere.”  They operate on a separate plane from the rest of us.

To a degree, they are non-conformists.  They speak their mind (or don’t), when we (the normal population) feel too ashamed.  Maybe, in some strange way, we aspire to be them.

For the article, click here.

We are all copy-cats

To start off, I’d like to define two terms for you.

Rapport: a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Mirroring: the act of subconsciously and subtly copying another person’s actions or movements in order to build a greater rapport with that person.

Have you ever seen two people who genuinely like each other getting coffee or eating lunch?  They tend to be in similar positions when they converse.  If one of them is leaning on the table, often times the other will join them.  Similarly, in a classroom setting, it is likely that if your friend’s hand is on his desk, you will put yours on a desk as well.

If you find this hard to believe, look at some of the images below.

Here, all three of these figures have their hands relaxed in their laps, and one leg (from either side) crossed over.

Here, all four of these associates are touching the table in some way.  Furthermore, they are all smiling, and they are all making contact with some form of paper or accessory.

We copy each other’s actions and responses when we like each other or when we have a connection to them.  This is called subconscious mirroring, and it’s been used and practiced in the business world for years now.  In fact, human resource officers have been copying their employees moves and positions for years in order to better connect with them and maintain a less threatening presence.

Below, I incorporated a video tutorial published by BNET, a company that educates business associates on how to “mirror” other associates.

Personally, I believe that actively trying to mirror another person’s actions can come off as fake and sometimes awkward.  If you mirrored everything I did while I was talking to you, I’d feel incredibly uncomfortable.  However, this idea of mirroring could be useful in the business environment, and could be an indicator of whether or not you truly have built rapport with another person.

Can we avoid being racist?

Our brains are structured so that the part of the brain that detects race runs parallel to the part of the brain that creates and cycles through emotions.  Neurotransmitters that respond in or stimulate race recognition often times effect our emotions or mood.

This might be the cause of what psychologists call “subconscious racism”, or unintentional race bias.  Basically, even a perfectly cultured, respecting person can make decisions that would appear racism from an objective standpoint.

This factor affects a variety of activities, spanning from employment and college admission to rent for housing.

Today, the common perception on the issue of race is that it isn’t an issue.  The color of your skin or your background should have no effect on how you are looked upon.  However, studies have shown that this is only an ideal.  People of minorities and other races tend to be paid less, have a harder time finding work, have a harder time getting into college (not necessarily now due to affirmative action laws), and are more likely to pay more for similar services.

Essentially, each race is biased against any other race.  Subconsciously, a certain race of people will prefer to interact with, mate with, and work with other people of that race.

As humans developed, we recognized people who looked similar to us as people who were more likely not to harm us, and more likely to mate with us.  Millions of years ago, racism could have saved lives.

Today, we still feel the effects of this phenomenon, regardless of the immorality of it.

For information on how scientists are trying to combat this phenomenon, click here.