To Get the Best Look at a Person’s Face, Look Just Below the Eyes
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. However, to get a real idea of what a person is up to, according to UC Santa Barbara researchers Miguel Eckstein and Matt Peterson, the best place to check is right below the eyes. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
“It’s pretty fast, it’s effortless –– we’re not really aware of what we’re doing,” said Miguel Eckstein, professor of psychology in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. Using an eye tracker and more than 100 photos of faces and participants, Eckstein and graduate research assistant Peterson followed the gaze of the experiment’s participants to determine where they look in the first crucial moment of identifying a person’s identity, gender, and emotional state.
“For the majority of people, the first place we look at is somewhere in the middle, just below the eyes,” Eckstein said. One possible reason could be that we are trained from youth to look there, because it’s polite in some cultures. Or, because it allows us to figure out where the person’s attention is focused.
However, Peterson and Eckstein hypothesize that, despite the ever-so-brief –– 250 millisecond –– glance, the relatively featureless point of focus, and the fact that we’re usually unaware that we’re doing it, the brain is actually using sophisticated computations to plan an eye movement that ensures the highest accuracy in tasks that are evolutionarily important in determining flight, fight, or love at first sight.