The eyes tell: Is it love or lust?

The eyes truly are windows to the soul–or at least to what is going on in the brain. According to new research published in the…

Researchers say eye movement patterns can indicate if a person is feeling love or lust. (Shutterstock)

The eyes truly are windows to the soul–or at least to what is going on in the brain. According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science it may possible to distinguish love or lust through an individual’s eye movements during the first social interactions of a couple.

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“Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers,” explained lead author Stephanie Cacioppo, as reported by Medical News Today.

Cacioppo and her team found while it may seem like common sense that where someone is looking on a person’s body indicates romantic feelings or purely sexual ones, eye patterns were much more complicated when it came to distinguishing between the two feelings.

For example, when shown non-sexual images of the opposite sex, study participants were found to fixate on the face when feelings were primarily romantic. Sexual desire, however, also focused on the face, but eye movement shifted frequently to other areas of the body. The results were the same for both men and women, but left the question of: what causes someone to feel lustfully or romantically inclined toward another individual? Is there something genetically in someone’s features that promotes one feeling or the other?

“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, co-author and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

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It is not yet clear how this might be used in the practical dating atmosphere, as it can be argued that seeing someone romantically implies there should also be some sexual attraction. Researchers argue, however, that: “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.”

In other words, being able to determine love or lust could be crucial for couples who feel they are not in the same place in a relationship. More research is needed before the findings can be put into clinical practice.