New study finds that tilting your head while talking to a person leads them to look more at the eyes, making them more approachable and less threatening. The findings of the study are published in the journal Perception.
While eye contact is considered crucial for social engagement, many people may find direct eye contact threatening.
‘While communicating with a person, making a slight tilt of the head can help the other person understand or know you better, paving the way for great social engagement.’
Using eye-tracking technology, the researchers found that people tend to look first at whichever eye is higher.
Understanding how facial recognition works has great value perhaps particularly for those whose brains process information in ways that make eye contact challenging, including people with autism.
"Looking at the eyes allows you to gather much more information," said lead researcher Nicolas Davidenko, Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of California, Santa Cruz.
"It's a real advantage," Davidenko added.
By contrast, the inability to make eye contact has causal effects.
"It impairs your facial processing abilities and puts you at a real social disadvantage," he said.
People who are reluctant to make eye contact may also be misperceived as disinterested, distracted, or aloof, he noted.
So the new findings could help people with autism have deeper social engagements.
The findings may also be of value for people with amblyopia, or "lazy eye," which can be disconcerting to others.
"In conversation, they may want to tilt their head, so their dominant eye is up," Davidenko said.
"That taps into our natural tendency to fix our gaze on that eye," he added.