Eye Movements Can Differentiate Between Love and Lust: Says Latest Study from University of Chicago

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By Indrani Bhattacharyya | July 18, 2014 1:32 PM EST

Some men and women are destined to be admired, some to be loved, whereas some to be desired. Love and lust, two eternal emotions, often leave most people confused.

What the heart fails to understand, the head comes up with the answer. According to a new study, from the eye movement of the person you have fallen for, it is possible to detect what he/she has on mind, whether it is love or lust.

Reuters
Nida, an internally displaced girl, sits while waiting for handouts at a distribution point for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dera Ismail Khan, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, October 30, 2009.

"Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or the way people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attention giving processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers," said lead author Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the UChicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory. Cacioppo co-authored the report, now published online in the journal Psychological Science, with colleagues from UChicago and the University of Geneva.

In this research, two experiments were carried out to test visual patterns to understand two different emotional and cognitive states which are often difficult to distinguish from one another; romantic love and sheer lust.

Both male and female students from University of Geneva looked at a series of black-and-white photographs of completely unknown people.

 In first part of the study, participants looked at photos of young, adult heterosexual couples who were interacting with each other. In the second part, participants viewed photographs of attractive individuals of the opposite sex who were looking directly at the camera/viewer. There were no nude or erotic images.

In both the cases, participants were asked to stay before a computer and requested to look at different blocks of photographs and identify as rapidly and precisely as possible the way they perceived each photograph, whether they triggered sexual desire or romantic love. The researchers observed there was no significant difference in the time taken by the subjects to differentiate between romantic love versus sexual desire.

But eye-tracking data analysis from the two studies revealed immense differences in the pattern of eye movement depending on whether the subjects reported feeling sexual desire or romantic love. When it was love, People had fixed gaze more on the face, whereas in case of lust, they looked more at rest of the body. This observation was found in both male and female participants.

"By identifying eye patterns that are specific to love-related stimuli, the study may contribute to the development of a biomarker that differentiates feelings of romantic love versus sexual desire," Cacioppo was quoted saying.

So eyes speak it all.

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(Photo: Reuters / Akhtar Soomro)
Nida, an internally displaced girl, sits while waiting for handouts at a distribution point for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dera Ismail Khan, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, October 30, 2009.
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