A study published last month in Royal Society Open Science saw researchers ask 498 strangers at the London Science Museum to test how long their gaze could last when they stared into the eyes of an actor in a video who appeared to be staring straight back at them.
These volunteers were asked to hit a button if they found the stare lasted for an uncomfortably long or short amount of time. On average, participants had a “preferred gaze duration” of 3.3 seconds.
How long can you last? Test out your staring-stamina with the video below:
It turns out that prolonged eye contact can be an incredibly powerful and emotional thing – which is why it can make so many of us uncomfortable when we try and sustain it.
“Eye contact provides some of the strongest information during a social interaction,” social psychologist James Wirth, of Ohio State University at Newark, explained to Scientific American magazine.
In his 2010 study, Wirth and his co-researchers found that the impact of someone avoiding your gaze – even briefly, can leave you feeling ostracized.
Holding someone’s gaze can reveal intimate details about emotions and intentions. It’s hardly surprising then that many find eye contact to be more powerful than words.
It’s a formula that SBS is putting to the test in a unique new upcoming documentary series that explores the power of eye contact.
…And we want YOU to participate.
Is there a painful rift between you and a family member?
Have you grown distant from a friend you used to care about?
Has a close relationship ended and you don’t know how to move on?
SBS are looking for people who genuinely want to reconcile after years apart to participate in a compelling new TV documentary series.
Look Me in the Eye is produced by Endemol Shine for SBS.