Love or Lust? It’s All In The Eyes

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New study examines how eye gaze can reveal the difference between love and lust.

Research into ‘eye gaze’ is well established and has come up with some interesting results. Peoples eye gaze alters according to interest, intentions and goals. Understanding the language of the eyes is a useful skill to have and can play an important role in social interactions.

The difference between love and lust can be quite significant and being able to spot the difference between the two could be a great social advantage.

Love is not a prerequisite for sexual desire, and sexual desire does not necessarily lead to love. Love and lust can exist by themselves or in combination, and to any degree

Researchers from the University of Geneva and Chicago hypothesised that from examining peoples gaze they would be able to differentiate love from lust. (Bolmont et al., 2014)

The researchers performed two experiments the first tested if visual pattern related to the perception of romantic love differed from that of sexual desire and the second experiment tested if visual pattern related to the expression of romantic love differed from that of sexual desire.

The researchers noted that as well as being able to differentiate love from lust would be a social advantage it could also be of clinical significance:

In couples therapy when these two phenomena are difficult to disentangle from one another on the basis of patients’ self-reports or gross behavioral observation.

20 participants were recruited for the experiments and were required to perform a computer task in which they viewed a series of photos of people that they have never met while their eyes were tracked.

The researchers were able to identify significant differences between the eye gazes of love and lust.

love elicited more frequent eye fixations on the face than on the body

this difference was attenuated for decisions that involved lust, as a result of an increase in the frequency of eye fixations on the body and a decrease in the frequency of eye fixations on the face.

As demonstrated by the following image, overall the number of gazes at faces relative to body gazes was greater for love compared with lust.

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That is to say that people interested in love gazed at faces while those interested in lust (sexual desire) were more inclined to gaze at the body of the individuals presented in the photos.