Eye dominance and the mechanisms of eye contact

J AAPOS. 2010 Feb;14(1):52-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaapos.2009.11.017.


Purpose: To determine the effect of eye dominance on the nature of perceived eye contact and perceived eye misalignment.

Methods: In this experimental study, strabismic and nonstrabismic human subjects over the age of 18 were assessed for strength of eye dominance, being classified as either weakly or strongly dominant. They were asked whether they perceived residual misalignment following strabismus surgery (if applicable). An examiner assessed gaze preference in a variety of situations, with subjects viewing various altered pictures on a computer screen. The main outcome measure was preference for ipsilateral versus contralateral eye contact in static gaze and following visible gaze shifts.

Results: Of subjects with weak eye dominance, 77.3% preferred ipsilateral over contralateral eye contact, compared with 59.2% of subjects with strong eye dominance (p < 0.01). Gaze shifts tended to increased the preference for ipsilateral eye contact in subjects with weak eye dominance (p = 0.07) but not in those with strong eye dominance. Subjects with strong eye dominance, however, preferred ipsilateral eye contact with their dominant eye over their nondominant eye (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Individuals with a strongly dominant eye, such as those with longstanding strabismus, perceive eye contact differently from controls. As such, patients may have continuing difficulty with eye contact even after surgical correction.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Cues
  • Dominance, Ocular*
  • Eye
  • Facies*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Quality of Life
  • Strabismus / physiopathology*
  • Strabismus / psychology