Psychology/Eye contact


Mrs./Ms.ONeill, if you have any information on the matter, I have been wondering about eye contact.  
I don't get why people have trouble with eye contact, I was wondering if that's weird at all. I notice most people have trouble with it but with me it's the exact opposite. I don't stare at random strangers by any means, but while I talk to people I always look at there eyes. I was raised to look at someone while they talk to you but I've noticed most people look at/around/ your face like for instance your nose or just your general direction, not directly at peoples eyes like I do. For instance we our class was getting in trouble for "not behaving" while having a sub. We didn't do anything. Most people looked down and would not meet his (our VERY STRICT teacher) eyes , yet I just stared at him with a glare and my arms crossed. (No I'm not overly confident or get in trouble a lot and not scared of authority , I have never getting in trouble at school for ANYTHING) Also some of my friends say that when they first met me I was a bit scary till they got to know me. I am scrawny and only 5'2 tall. Most people have trouble keeping eye contact with me because I am  "intimidating" apparently,or so my friends say. I am in no means really pretty or ugly to make people nervous due to my looks. Also sometimes when just glancing around the room or across the table I will catch some peoples eyes and we will kind of have a stare off. It is kind weird. So I was just wondering what you think. Also I apologies ahead for any mistakes, I am only 14 and not very good at typing. I have just been very curious about this subject.

Charley,  There are many influences on how and when people have eye contact.  In American society, it is considered appropriate and polite to maintain eye contact while having a conversation.  At the same time, there are subtle "rules" about the eye contact.  We do expect to take small breaks and not continually stare into someone's eyes - that is considered rude or threatening. Maybe you are going a little overboard with the eye contact and that is why people are telling you that you are intimidating.

People who are feeling shy, awkward, frightened, will avoid eye contact.  At age 14, you are in the middle of adolescence.  I don't know who exactly "most people" are that you are referring to (who don't keep eye contact) - however, if you are largely referring to your peer group of 14 year olds, then it is very likely that the lack of eye contact is related to shyness, feeling awkward, etc.  Your "stare off" sounds like part of an adolescent need to assert yourself.  Teenagers are constantly going back and forth between feeling confident and feeling awkward, so they are going to show a wide range of behaviors.

Here are a couple of articles that may further explain:

In other cultures, such as Asian cultures, it is considered disrespectful to have too much eye contact.  and in muslim societies, there are very strict rules about eye contact between men and women.  So it is important to take many things into consideration when interpreting the meaning of eye contact or lack of eye contact.

Hope this helps.



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Katherine ONeill


I can answer academic questions about psychology. I am not a clinician (therapist), I am a research psychologist with expertise in biopsychology, general psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods and psychopharmacology.


I have 25 years experience as a researcher in health behavior, biopsychology and psychopharmacology.

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Applications of Market Research for Small Business UMBC Activate Program, March 2008 HIV/AIDS: An assessment of Need in the Continuum of Care. Optum Health Education., 12/2008 Maximizing the online medium for market research: Best practices. Market Research for Pharmaceuticals Conference, 12/06/2006 O誰eill, K.A. APD, ADD, ADHD and AD/HD: Personal and scientific reflections. Audiology Online, 6/6/2005. O誰eill, K.A. et al, Hyperactivity induced by NMDA injections into the nucleus accumbens. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 34(4), Dec 1989, 739-745. O誰eill, K.A. and Liebman, J.M. Unique behavioral effects of the NMDA antagonist, CPP, upon injection into the medial prefrontal cortex of rats. Brain Research, 435(1-2), Dec 1987, 371-376. O誰eill, K.A. and Gertner, S.B. Effects of centally administered H2 antagonists on motor activity. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 264, 1987, 683-686. O誰eill, K.A. and Gertner, S.B. Effects of centrally administered H2 antagonists in the behavioral despair test. 90(2), 1986, 190-192. O誰eill, K.A. Chronic desipramine attenuates morphine analgesia. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 24(1), Jan 1986, 155 158. O誰eill, K.A. and Valentino, D. Escapability and generalization: Effect on 礎ehavioral despair. European Journal of Pharmacology 78(3), March 1982, 379-80. O誰eill, K.A. et al, An automated high capacity method for measuring jumping latencies on a hot plate. Journal of Pharmacological Methods, 10(1), Aug 1983, 13-18. O誰eill, K.A., Scott, C. and Weissman, A. Naloxone enhances nociceptive responding. Society for Neuroscience, Abstract 9: 274, 1983.

Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Rhode Island, 1983. Post doctoral fellow dept of psychiatry, New York University Medical Center, 1983-1984. Post doctoral fellow, dept of pharmacology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 1984-1985.

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