You are meeting someone. You sit down to have a drink on a terrace and start talking. How much do you trust that person? What do you think he is going to say at that precise moment? The conversations arise, the looks come and go, the visual field changes, you look at each other. You look at the details. You perceive what is going to happen next just by noticing your eyes. He is going to laugh. It will show surprise, expectation, disbelief, or simple understanding. Isn’t it wonderful and exciting how we communicate non-verbally with other people?
Our eyeballs give us away. After all, this is where the most classic expression of affection or emotion arises: tears. These spheres with which we visually perceive the world and whose beauty ends up being one of the greatest incentives or attributes for which we fall in love with other people are most mysterious. And not only that, but they are the main component of what we call gaze, which allows us to intuit the other’s state of mind and even know what he is going to say next.
Substance C emanates from a person and flows from the eyes in a straight line. Makes contact with the objects of the environment that surrounds us
“Humans are dominantly visual creatures, what we see shows a significant clue to what the other person thinks,” says Matt Johnson, a doctor of cognitive psychology at Princeton University, in “Psychology Today.” “Scientific studies have shown that when we look at someone, our eyes gravitate to theirs. Only with this information, we can more or less accurately predict what object they are going to pick up now or what part of the room they are going to head for.”
How are we able to predict what the person we are with will do just by seeing the information transmitted by their eyes? Johnson quotes a neuroscientist named Michael Graziano, who has established that everything depends on a kind of “invisible ray” that reflects our intentions when we project our gaze towards the other, garnering their attention. He calls this invisible force “substance C”. The “c” refers to consciousness. “It is a construction of a prediction engine,” he explains. “It doesn’t really exist as such. It is a representation of very complex neural processing to analyze that occurs in a person’s head. Thanks to it, we can predict the next movement.”
The look as a prediction machine
The idea that there is a kind of invisible force that is released from our gaze and helps us predict what is going to happen next may sound a bit fanciful. It is a power whose existence is very difficult to demonstrate, although Graziano and his team have carried out several experiments to check if our eyes really have the ability to anticipate the movements that arise around us.
Psychologists know that predicting the behavior of the other is a mental process in which the gaze is very important
In one study, the group of scientists brought together a series of participants who sat in front of a vertical tube slightly tilted to one side. In this way, they were asked if they were able to predict if he fell or not against the surface on which he was standing. They divided the individuals into two groups: one would look at him with his eyes open and the other with his eyes blindfolded.
The results demonstrated that the person’s gaze had a significant impact on those judgments. The individuals believed that the angle of inclination was greater if the tube was tilted towards the face than if it was tilted outwards, that is, in the opposite position. This led them to believe that, having it closer to the eyes, the tube would fall more easily, as if the force projected from the eyes tried to prevent the tube from falling. You can better appreciate the results of this experiment through a drawing that Graziano made of the situation.
When the person was blindfolded, his gaze obviously had no impact on the judgments as to whether or not the tube would fall. “Substance C emanates from a person and flows from the eyes in a straight line,” summarizes the neurologist. “It makes contact with the objects of the environment that surrounds us. It has an energetic charge that empowers individuals to make decisions related to behavior, and therefore, directed to act in the world. It is automatic, giving us the impression that we can perceive the awareness of other people just by looking at them.”
“As social animals that we are, some of our most advanced capabilities are seeing how we make sense of other people,” Johnson concludes. “And most of this visual processing is so intuitive and automatic that we don’t completely know how it is done. Social psychologists have long known that predicting the behavior of the other is a crucial mental process in which gaze is especially important.” Hence perhaps the ability to persuade through the direct gaze.