Personality shapes the way our brains react to eye contact

Posted on June 9, 2015

Previous research has suggested that eye contact triggers patterns of brain activity associated with approach motivation, whereas seeing another person with his or her gaze averted triggers brain activity associated with avoidance motivation. This indicates that another person's attention is something important and desirable. However, many people find it discomforting and may even experience high levels of anxiety when they are the focus of someone's gaze. Researchers at the University of Tartu in Estonia and the University of Tampere in Finland set out to study what lies underneath these individual psychological differences. Does personality modulate how a person reacts to eye contact? Can this difference be measured by brain activity?

"In order to test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment where the participants' electrical brain activity was recorded while they were looking at another person who was either making eye contact or had her gaze averted to the side. We had assessed the participants' personality with a personality test in advance," Researcher Helen Uusberg explains.

The results showed that personality does indeed modulate the way one's brain reacts to attention from another individual. The eye contact triggered approach-associated brain activity patterns in those participants who scored low on Neuroticism, the personality dimension related to anxiety and self-consciousness. However, if the participant scored high on this personality dimension, the eye contact triggered more avoidance-associated brain activity patterns. The high-scoring participants also wanted to look at the other person with a direct gaze for shorter periods of time and experienced more pleasant feelings when they faced a person with an averted gaze. "Our findings indicate that people do not only feel different when they are the centre of attention but that their brain reactions also differ. For some, eye contact tunes the brain into a mode that increases the likelihood of initiating an interaction with other people. For others, the effect of eye contact may decrease this likelihood," Professor Jari Hietanen explains.

To read the full article, click on the link below


Category(s):Personality problems

Source material from Academy of Finland


Mental Health News

  • The relationship between nightmares and suicidal behaviour

    newsthumbA study has shown that nightmares might enhance a sense of defeat, loss of faith and hope, and the feeling of being trapped that lead to one having ...

  • Sleep Paralysis

    newsthumbSleep Paralysis is when one is wide awake but finds that he or she is being restricted from any movement as if the body was paralyzed. It usually ...

  • The future for boys with ADHD

    newsthumbThis article talks about how ADHD affects boys and their future performances in school, work and ability to fit into society