The researchers say that the eye patterns concentrate on a
stranger's face when the viewer sees that person as a potential partner in
romantic love, whereas the viewer gazes more at rest of the body if he or she
is feeling sexual desire.
scientists performed two experiments to test visual patterns in order to assess
romantic love and sexual desire, the two different emotional and cognitive
states that are usually hard to differentiate from one another by merely
part of the test, male and female students from the University of Geneva viewed
a series of black-and-white photographs of persons they had never met.
part one of the test, the students viewed photos of young, adult heterosexual
couples who were looking at or interacting with each other.
part two, participants were shown the photographs of attractive individuals of
the opposite sex who were looking directly at the camera/viewer. There was no
nudity or erotic images in the photos.
both tests, the students were asked to decide quickly whether they perceived
people in the pictures as eliciting feelings of sexual desire or romantic love.
The eye-tracking data from these tests revealed marked
differences in eye movement patterns, depending on whether the subjects
reported feeling romantic love or sexual desire.
The result states that people tended to visually fixate on
the face when they said an image elicited a feeling of romantic love and the
subjects' eyes moved from the face to fixate on the rest of the body when the
images evoked sexual desire. The effect
was found in both male and female participants.
Lead author and director of the University of Chicago High-Performance
Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory, Stephanie Cacioppo, said that the research
offered some clues to the scientific world regarding how automatic attentional
processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love and lust toward
The Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor and director
of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, co-author John Cacioppo,
said that the study would contribute to the development of a biomarker that
differentiates feelings of romantic love versus sexual desire as it identified
the eye patterns that were specific to love-related stimuli.
"An eye-tracking paradigm may
ultimately offer a new avenue of diagnosis in clinicians' daily practice or for
routine clinical exams in psychiatry and couple therapy," he said.
The report was published online in the journal Psychological Science