August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
A Longer Look at Time: Time Slows Down During Prolonged Eye Contact
Author Affiliations
  • Michelle Jarick
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Kaitlin Laidlaw
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Vanja Alispahic
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Alan Kingstone
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 134. doi:
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      Michelle Jarick, Kaitlin Laidlaw, Vanja Alispahic, Alan Kingstone; A Longer Look at Time: Time Slows Down During Prolonged Eye Contact. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):134.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Eye contact plays a crucial role during social interactions. It demonstrates that we are engaged, interested, and attending to the people involved. Why then, do we only make eye contact for brief periods of time? One hypothesis is that prolonged eye contact (> 5 seconds) elicits an elevated degree of arousal, which then could be interpreted as intimacy (or intimidation) leading to anxiety in both individuals. Here we investigated whether prolonged eye contact (live or through the computer) could distort our perception of time. In the live condition, two naïve participants made a 1-minute time estimate while sitting next to one another and maintaining three different poses: looked at the wall (baseline), looked at their partner’s profile (face averted) or made eye contact with their partner. Over the computer, participants made the 1-minute estimate while watching videos equated to the live poses (i.e., empty room, person’s profile, and eye contact). Recent research has shown that subjective time estimates increase (i.e., time slows down) during arousing events. Thus, if eye contact induces a high degree of arousal, then we predicted time would seem to slow down during conditions in which participants made eye contact. Indeed this was the case. We found that participants made significantly longer time estimates when they made eye contact, as opposed to when they looked at another person or just sat next to another person. Importantly, this duration expansion was only observed when participants made eye contact with their partner face-to-face and not with a person in a video. We attribute this difference to an increase in anxiety when looking into the eyes of a person next to you that does not exist over the computer. Thus, we showed that when studied in a natural environment, prolonged eye contact causes time to slow down.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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