ICONIQUE PSYCHOLOGY

The Power Of Eye-Contact In A Conversation

May 17, 2018

 

One of the best parts about summer is that we all get to look incredibly cool. Admit to yourself in full honesty, how often you wear sunglasses indoors or when the sun is not even out. Have you ever heard the saying eyes are the window to the soul? While sunglasses do an amazing job of protecting our eye-sight, they also have the power to protect our soul too! 

 


Sunglasses give you instant superiority
Reflective sunglasses are the iconic accessory of any police or Air Force uniform. Just like the uniform itself, they symbolise a certain social status. This is exactly why the reflective sunglasses were a part of the uniform in one of the most controversial studies in the history of psychology, the Stanford prison experiment. In this social research students were randomly assigned the role of either a prisoner or a guard. Embodying their new social roles, they were put into a prison simulation for several days. The results turned out to be shocking. 

 

 

As the prison environment promoted anonymity and dehumanisation of the prisoners, the guards' aggressiveness grew. The verbal and physical abuse towards the prisoners became so unbearable that the experiment had to end sooner than planned. The reflective sunglasses played a crucial role in promoting anonymity as direct eye contact between the prison guards and prisoners was made impossible. Through this, the social superiority of the guards was clearly defined right from the beginning of the experiment. 


Our social status has a major influence on the way we behave. Wearing sunglasses during conversation can give you a feeling of superiority, especially if the person you are talking to isn't wearing any. The reflective sunglasses are a true tool of power, as the other person is not only unable to see your eyes but he also sees his own reflection, which can leave him feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable. 
 

Sunglasses are an obstacle in communication
Eye contact is a crucial part of any meaningful conversation. When we talk to each other the glances typically last for about 3-10 seconds. The more we like the other person, the more comfortable we will be maintaining eye-contact. Looking into someone else's eyes plays a crucial role in developing an intimate relationship and without eye-contact we do not feel like we are fully engaging with our partner or like we are truly being listened to. While sunglasses have the power to protect your eyes against the sunlight, they also have the dangerous power to take away deeper meaning from a conversation. 

 

Eye-contact can reveal what we really feel
Whether it’s sadness, anger or joy, expressing our emotions is closely linked with our facial expressions. Your eyes have the power to reveal whether you are truly enjoying yourself or whether you are smiling just to be polite. People who smize (smile with their eyes) are perceived as more generous and sociable by others. Also known as the Duchenne smile, smizing is when the corners of the mouth are raised and you get crow’s feet around the eyes. It is this type of smile that is the most genuine. The reality of wearing sunglasses is that whether you are genuinely smiling or not, the person talking to you will not be able to tell. 

 

By wearing sunglasses, all the important non-verbal cues like eye-contact and the Duchenne smile are lost. There is a gained sense of anonymity and power. You can smile without really feeling happy or pretend you’re listening to someone, even though you are lost in your own thoughts looking at the people passing by. On one hand, it is like having your own superhero cape but on the other hand, sunglasses are an obstacle in communication. Even though it is easy to hide behind a pair of sunglasses, in order to fully connect with another person we need that vulnerability, which gives meaning to our relationships and simply makes us human.   

 

Sources:

http://www.zimbardo.com/downloads/1973%20A%20Study%20of%20Prisoners%20and%20Guards,%20Naval%20Research%20Reviews.pdf 

https://janetdeanfodor.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/argyle-and-dean-1965-eye-contact.pdf

 

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