The language of the eye has been shown by researchers to be more reliable than other body language because the movements the eyes make are involuntary and fleeting. This makes it hard for people to pay as much attention to them as, say the arms, hands or the legs. Eyes straight ahead while considering an answer, as we will see means that a prospect is passively considering information, the eyes down means that someone is concentrating or evaluating and the eyes upward means that an idea is being analyzed. Conversely, eyes looking off into space indicates a loss of interest, and eye contact avoidance indicates submission or fear. We can also tell a lot about what a person is thinking just by how the eyes move and then relating it back to context as we shall cover later.
In the seventies, Michael Argyle found that about sixty percent of conversation involved some form of gazing. He found that only thirty percent involved mutual gazing where the eyes met and held eye contact directly and that people look twice as often (seventy-five percent) while listening, versus just forty percent while speaking. The average gaze length was recorded to be about three seconds long whereas mutual gaze lasted just over one second before being broken. Eye contact has been found to be related to both cultural and personality differences. For example, Japanese and South Americans use far less eye contact as it is thought to be aggressive and disrespectful and introverted people make less eye contact then someone who is extroverted. It has also been shown through research that eye gaze is an indication of patterns in speech. People will tend to look away as they begin to speak, presumably to avoid distraction, and will then return their gaze as they near completion of their thought.
Eye contact is also a great way to measure like-mindedness. The more agreement is formed between individuals, the more eye contact is present. Even under research conditions where strangers were forced to hold eye contact for extended periods of time, they reported a greater sense of liking. We also tend to distrust others who make poor eye contact with us because subconsciously we think they are trying to hide something. The following chapter deals with the complete language of the eyes including its hidden meaning.