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
meaning(s)
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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