Eye contact: the core of interpersonal relatedness

Psychiatry. 1983 May;46(2):172-80. doi: 10.1080/00332747.1983.11024189.


This essay will attempt to show, citing evidence from diverse sources, that eye contact plays a central role in interpersonal relations. The eyes preface most new relationships, overshadowing other sensory inputs while transmitting a wide assortment of emotional cues. Visual behavior may at times prove decisive in assuring survival, in amorous encounters, and in clarifying interpersonal motives. Ocular performance, a final common pathway for many social, cultural and emotional determinants, is a crucial factor in defining relationships and in allowing reciprocal influences to be exchanged as persons relate. In psychiatric patients, ocular behavior may provide clues to diagnosis. A common finding in such persons is gaze aversion, a social avoidance phenomenon which indicates a desire to attenuate the interpersonal experience and thereby decrease anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Eye*
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Visual Perception