When it comes to first impressions of a potential new love, the eyes may indeed be the window to the soul—because the direction of your gaze when looking at this person offers an unconscious, automatic giveaway of whether your initial reaction is romance or sex. That’s according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. [Mylene Bolmont et al: Love Is in the Gaze: An Eye-Tracking Study of Love and Sexual Desire]
Heterosexual subjects looked at photographs on a computer of fully clothed, attractive strangers of the opposite sex. For each photo, they had to decide as quickly as possible if they experienced feelings of either sexual lust or romantic love.
The researchers found no significant difference in the time it took subjects to make their decision. But eye-tracking data uncovered a big difference in where the subject looked. If one of the volunteers felt lust for the individual in the photograph, they tended to look at the eyes first, then fixated on the body. While those who felt romantic love, were more likely to keep their attention only on the eyes and face.
The researchers say that “identification of distinct visual patterns for love and lust could have theoretical and clinical importance in couples therapy.” Especially if one of them is looking out the window at strangers.