EYE CONTACT in Psychology: Types and Meaning

  • Jul 26, 2021
Eye contact in psychology: types and meaning

Eye contact is a very effective means of communication, being relevant in practically all communicative contexts, except when this is not possible. It is important for example in job interviews, to socialize with strangers, or when showing intense emotions of happiness, anger or fear.

There are different types of eye contact, each having a different meaning. Through visual contact, emotions and thoughts can be exchanged, often supporting verbal language, and fostering the connection between the sender and the receiver. In Psychology-Online we explain the ins and outs of eye contact in psychology, types and meaning each.

You may also like: The 30 types of emotions and their meaning


  1. What is eye contact
  2. Importance of eye contact
  3. Types of looks in psychology

What is eye contact.

Visual contact is understood to be the situation in which the gazes of two people are fixed on each other's eyes. This is a really powerful means of communication, being a clear case of non-verbal communication.

This eye contact allows us

interpret other people's emotions, as well as transmitting their own. For example, if we see someone with a flushed face and a frown, her gaze probably denotes large doses of anger or anger. In this way, a connection is established between his gaze and ours, this anger is much easier for us to interpret and even know the degree or intensity of it. For this reason, eye contact is considered so important as a source of emotional information.

Importance of eye contact.

The fact that eye contact acquires so much relevance at the communicative level is not a mere coincidence, since it allows many interactions between receiver and sender. It is very important when carrying out a active listening or in the expression of emotions.

It is necessary to also talk about the relevance of eye contact as almost requirement for initiating a communication. Well, normally when we address or want to address someone, the first thing we do unconsciously It is usually to look him directly in the eye, thus capturing his attention and giving him the signal that we want to communicate something.

Eye contact is also relevant when it comes to establish and respect turns to speakWell, if another person who was speaking to us suddenly shuts up and looks at us, they are probably waiting for our intervention.

In addition, it is necessary to distinguish different types of eye contact, from the most intense and prolonged, the inquisitive or, on the contrary, the absence of eye contact or fleeting glances. We will see all this in the next section.

Types of looks in psychology.

There are different ways of looking at others. Now we discuss some examples and their usual meaning. However, it should be added that the meaning of a look is sometimes difficult to catalog, as it depends on many personal and contextual factors, as well as who interprets it.

The types of looks in psychology and their meaning are as follows:

  • Intense and prolonged gaze: prolonged eye contact denotes attention in what the interlocutor wants to convey or in the actions of the interlocutor. It is usually accompanied by a slight lift of the eyebrows. However, if this gaze is too pushy or aggressive, it may be a challenging gaze.
  • Elusive look: What does it mean to avoid eye contact? If a person avoids looking another in the eye, it is usually because they feel threatened, insecure, or embarrassed, for some reason. Looking away in psychology means insecurity or shame.
  • Eyes narrowed: If a person looks at us with narrowed eyes, it is usually because he is on the defensive, or distrusts us, or expects an attack of some kind.
  • Blink excessively: This action is usually due to a high level of nerves, denoting restlessness, shame or it may even be due to the fact that this person is attracted to the one with whom he communicates. If that's the case, the following information about how to calm your nerves before a first date.
  • Dilated pupils: Our pupils tend to dilate when something is interesting to us, or we could even say fascinating, this usually occurs when there is surprise or a genuine interest in the other person. Pupil dilation is a physiological reaction that occurs when a person sees something that attracts them. Another interesting physiological reaction is blushing. Find out in this article why do we turn red when we are ashamed.

As you can see there are multiple variations, which completely determine the message conveyed just with a glance. Factors such as the duration of the gaze, the direction, the intensity or the facial gestures with which the gaze is accompanied are those that essentially determine its intention and message.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Eye contact in psychology: types and meaning, we recommend that you enter our category of Emotions.


  • Russo, N. F. (1975). Eye contact, interpersonal distance, and the equilibrium theory.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31 (3), 497–502. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0076476
  • Stephenson, G. M., Rutter, D. R., & Dore, S. R. (1973). Visual interaction and distance. British Journal of Psychology, 64 (2), 251–257. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1973.tb01349.x
  • Thayer, S., & Schiff, W. (1975). Eye-Contact, Facial Expression, and the Experience of Time. The Journal of Social Psychology, 95 (1), 117–124. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1975.9923242
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