Does she want a hookup or a relationship? The answer is in her gaze.

By Seriously Science | July 21, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/altoexyl

Photo: flickr/altoexyl

It’s a common scenario in the dating world: two people begin a relationship, and it quickly becomes apparent that one person is looking to commit while the other just wants
some nookie. Well, what if there were a scientific way to tell whether that hottie at the bar is interested in you for your body or your mind? According to this study, a person’s intentions are hidden in their gaze. The researchers tracked the eyes of subjects prompted to think about love versus lust, and they found that people focused more on faces in photos when they were thinking about love, but more on bodies in photos when they were thinking about lust (see figure below). So there you have it: according to science, if a lady spends the whole evening looking at your body, she might not be interested in a long-term relationship.

Love Is in the Gaze: An Eye-Tracking Study of Love and Sexual Desire.

“Reading other people’s eyes is a valuable skill during interpersonal interaction. Although a number of studies have investigated visual patterns in relation to the perceiver’s interest, intentions, and goals, little is known about eye gaze when it comes to differentiating intentions to love from intentions to lust (sexual desire). To address this question, we conducted two experiments: one testing whether the visual pattern related to the perception of love differs from that related to lust and one testing whether the visual pattern related to the expression of love differs from that related to lust. Our results show that a person’s eye gaze shifts as a function of his or her goal (love vs. lust) when looking at a visual stimulus. Such identification of distinct visual patterns for love and lust could have theoretical and clinical importance in couples therapy when these two phenomena are difficult to disentangle from one another on the basis of patients’ self-reports.”

Bonus figure from the main text:

Eye-tracking results from Study 1. The heat maps at the left illustrate the location and mean number (from low in green to high in red) of fixations when subjects made decisions about romantic love (top row) and sexual desire (bottom row). The subjects’ visual areas of interest (AOIs) are indicated. The bar graphs at the right show the mean number of fixations (top row) and mean duration of fixations (bottom row) as a function of task dimension. Error bars indicate standard errors.

Eye-tracking results from Study 1. The heat maps at the left illustrate the location and mean number (from low in green to high in red) of fixations when subjects made decisions about romantic love (top row) and sexual desire (bottom row). The subjects’ visual areas of interest (AOIs) are indicated. The bar graphs at the right show the mean number of fixations (top row) and mean duration of fixations (bottom row) as a function of task dimension. Error bars indicate standard errors.

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: This study is soooo interesting.
NCBI ROFL: Why it’s so hard to intercept a ninja.
NCBI ROFL: Sex differences in visual attention to sexually explicit videos: a preliminary study.

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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