When it comes to dating, your potential partner’s intentions are often shrouded in mystery. And though clear and honest communication is the hallmark of any solid relationship, some prefer to delay those conversations that might define the relationship too soon. In the meantime, you may be wondering whether a man is interested in you as a potential relationship partner, or if instead, he’s only interested in sex. The answer, scientists say, is simple and observable: what a man wants is all in the eyes.
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, tracking a man’s eye movements can reveal “whether love or lust is in the cards.” They claim that in as little as a half a second, a person’s brain makes a snap judgement about others as part of an “automatic attentional process” to biomarkers in that person’s appearance. If the basis of a person’s attraction is solely physical, their eye patterns should reveal that they spend more time stealing glances at their date’s body. If instead they’re interested in romantic love, they’re likely to focus on their date’s face.
Now, some might wonder, “Aren’t these things intertwined? How could scientists possibly decipher between the two when even the person themselves may not know what they want?” It’s a good question.
Stephanie Cacioppo, PhD, director of the UChicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory and co-author of the study, conducted previous research that answers it. That study (and others) found that while love and sexual desire are of course intertwined, they use “different networks of brain regions” to process the two feelings.
To get to the bottom of whether two distinct intentions could be tracked using visual patterns, Cacioppo and her team designed an experiment where subjects were asked to look at black and white photos of attractive individuals they had never met. They were then tasked with deciding as quickly as possible whether the photos elicited a romantic or sexual interest, all while the researchers collected eye tracking data. They found there was no difference in how long it took subjects to identify potential love and lust: both appeared to be instantaneous reactions. Furthermore, the eye tracking data revealed that the location of the subjects’ gaze was consistent with their reported interest.
So, if you should find yourself on a date trying to decipher a man’s intentions, this simple trick may give you a clue. Take note of how (and where) he looks at you to find out if it’s lust or love he’s after.