When people describe how they met their partner, they’ll often describe how their eyes met across the room, or their face stood out from the crowd. Now, scientists believe that when people meet a potential partner, their immediate eye movements could be a telltale sign of whether they’re after love or lust.
Researchers from the University of Chicago analyzed people’s eye movements as they viewed black and white photos of both couples and attractive strangers and judged whether the people they saw were eliciting feelings of sexual desire or romantic love.
The results revealed an interesting pattern; when the subjects judged a stranger as depicting feelings or romantic love, their eyes stayed fixed on the stranger’s face. However, when the subjects felt the photo was exuding sexual desire, their eyes strayed over the rest of stranger’s body.
“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,” says John Cacioppo, who coauthored the new research. “An eye-tracking model may offer a new avenue of diagnosis for routine clinical exams in psychiatry and/or couple therapy.”
What’s more, the scientists found that the subject’s judgment can occur in just half a second, suggesting the way we categorize whether we feel lust or love for new people is innately automated.