Look inside your kitchen cabinet and odds are you have a collection of old friends gazing back at you — the Rice Bubbles cartoon characters, the Frosted Flakes tiger, the Honey Puffs bee, the Milo boy, the Sultana Bran sunshine face, you get the idea. The real reason they are there has more do with your subconscious craving for eye contact than the taste of the products.
A recent study published in the journal Environment and Behavior, researchers at Cornell University manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adult subjects were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. The researchers also found that the eyes of characters on boxes of cereal marketed to kids were directed downward, to meet the upward gaze of children in grocery store aisles. (Yes check it out next time you walk through a supermarket - subliminal trickery).
“Making eye contact even with a character on a cereal box inspires powerful feelings of connection,” said one of the study's authors Professor Brian Wansink.
In other studies, researchers have also found that children and adults who avoid or are denied eye contact are more likely to suffer from depression and feelings of isolation as well as exhibit antisocial traits such as callousness. Rather than cause and effect, the hypothesis is that the relationship between less eye contact and psychological problems is circular and reinforcing. This is alarming in a society where people increasingly spend more time looking at their mobile devices than at one another.
In short eye contact makes us more socially aware and empathetic. It allows us to make sense of our relationships and social orientation. Moreover, research from as far back as the 1980s indicates that people who make eye contact are perceived as more likable and trustworthy.
Still not convinced about how much your peepers mean to you sales, marketing and business relationships? Then check out this episode of UQTV where I will share two more reasons why eye contact adds impact.
But wait - researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine last year also found that patients of doctors who made more eye contact had better health, adhered more to medical advice and were more likely to seek treatment for future problems. Not surprisingly, doctors who brought laptops into the examining room made less eye contact.
“Eye contact is a really good surrogate for where attention is and the level of accord building in a relationship,” said Enid Montague, a professor of engineering and medicine at Northwestern, who used video recordings of 100 patient visits to a primary care clinic for her analysis. “We found eye contact leads to significantly better patient outcomes.”
So eye contact with your doc can make you healthier too!
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