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THE POWER OF EYE CONTACT

Alexandria Joy - Sunday, September 14, 2014

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.

Amazeballs right!

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!

Tweet this: Eye contact increases your EQ

Tweet this: Patients of doctors who made eye contact are healthier

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your tips for building rapport and trust in relationships? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time keep on building a life, business or career that plays to your unique strengths – the best thing you can do to change the world is to #startwithu.

Thanks for watching

Heidi Alexandra 
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Comments

Adam Price commented on 16-Sep-2014 05:06 PM
So true Heidi, and yet another fantastic video... Being an entertainer, specifically in music therapy with our local dementia patients it's so critical to watch what their eyes are doing. Eye's mixed with other body language, even the most minute movements help to read someone accurately and connect with them.

For example, many advanced dementia patients can often be asleep, or appear asleep, but their eyelids are fluttering, a finger is going to the beat.

With general society, it quite often much easier to read them, but it's actually so amazing how many people don't "LOOK" you in the eye when you're trying to acknowledge them across a room, speaking directly or just passing by, it's the old "drop the head" syndrome and that tends to have a sign of "weakness" in business situations or flakiness.

Great video, I always enjoy watching and sharing my experiences with them :-)
Heidi commented on 17-Sep-2014 02:36 PM
Thanks for your great comments Adam - I appreciate the perspective you give as an entertainer, specifically in music therapy with dementia patients - inspiring!
Also the research is supporting what you are saying about the fact that event advanced dementia patients who appear asleep, but their eyelids are fluttering, are responding to your music and eye contact - the research shows that even the brains of legally blind people light up when someone looks them in the eye. It’s a sort of primal awareness and why you sometimes feel someone is looking at you before you turn and see them. Keep up the great work you are doing. Everyone should Adopt a Singer!
Mira commented on 18-Sep-2014 03:58 AM
What's really shameful about this is how manufacturers are using this to specifically target their audiences, especially small children. Sugar-laden cereals with artificial ingredients and other chemicals are placed on a specific shelf (manufacturers pay "slotting fees" to get the space they want at the grocery store) and have a specific degree of slant (9.6%) in order to appeal to small children sitting in a grocery cart as well as slightly older ones walking next to the cart. Their favorite t.v. show characters seem to be looking at the children and this induces them to beg a parent for these products because of the connection formed by this practice of "looking at you."

Most people, and certainly small children, don't know what's happening, they just know that they sense a connection. They have just been psychologically primed to buy.
Mary Ellen Miller commented on 18-Sep-2014 12:26 PM
Heidi, this is fantastic! I love your "scary" musical interlude. But seriously the "eyes" have it. Very nice job.
Jessica commented on 20-Sep-2014 12:58 AM
Nothing worse than someone looking around you when you are talking to them. These are great explanations of WHY it's so important to make eye contact! Great video!!!
Mitch Tublin commented on 22-Sep-2014 11:33 AM
Heidi,
The eye contact impact is so important in communication on so many levels. Shows you are listening and paying attention for one thing. Thank you for bringing attention to it.
Trudy Scott commented on 24-Sep-2014 04:18 AM
Fascinating post! I do wonder what all the ipad/iphone heads down activity is going to mean (even more then lack of eye-contact - like hand and neck issues too)

And I hear you with the doctors on PCs - zero eye-contact and it's not good

I don't have any of the cereal boxes you mention but will check them out next time I'm in the store - scary stuff!

Thanks!
Heidi commented on 30-Sep-2014 09:10 AM
Thanks for your comments everyone. Sadly it is true how we are primed to buy from a young age - scary and true. But we can use eye contact for good as well - use it and build rapport and establish trust and you'll go far.
Tiffany deSilva commented on 04-Oct-2014 04:12 AM
Very interesting, Heidi. In graduate school we were taught how important the therapeutic relationship is for helping patients and clients. The fact that patients are healthier when their doctors make eye contact is a great example of the power of a good therapeutic relationship. I can see how this translates to sales and marketing, as well.
Lisa Manyon commented on 04-Oct-2014 04:49 AM
Heidi,

Thanks for yet another dynamic video with solid tips and reminders to improve UQ.

Write on!~

Lisa

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