Colloquium du DEC

What is special about eye contact?

Laurence Conty (Paris 8)
Informations pratiques
12 novembre 2013

Salle Langevin

For the last 5 decades, eye contact effects have increasingly been attracting interest in the social sciences. Indeed, perceiving a face with a direct gaze (i.e. establishing eye contact) has the power to modulate a concurrent or subsequent cognitive processing or behavior in humans. Despite the accumulation of a large body of evidence, no model exists to date, that offers a unified theory accounting for these effects. Eye contact effects have traditionally, but most often unspecifically, been explained by the high communicative value of eye contact. However, 8 years of research on the topic led me to relate them to an alternative mechanism: the eye contact’s power of self-reflection. In a recent study, my team found that direct gaze induces self-awareness, likely by focusing attentional resources on inner states. In this talk, I will try to demonstrate how this self-reflective power could account for most of the other eye contact effects reported in behavioural, physiological and neuroimaging literature. I will further question the specificity of these effects and their potential applicability for therapeutic purposes.