The science of love: look into the eyes

It may seem obvious to every starry-eyed lover but psychologists have now proved it to be true – if you want someone to find you attractive, look them in the face and smile. A strong jaw for men, high cheek-bones in women, a perfectly-shaped nose or unblemished skin may be the physical signs of sexual attractiveness, but it is the gaze of the eyes that really counts.

Psychologists have shown for the first time that you are more likely to find a happy-looking face that looks directly at you sexually attractive than the equally smiling face of someone who is averting their eyes. The findings support the theory that both men and women use the direction of a person's gaze as a signal of whether that person finds you interesting enough to look you directly in the face – and that sign of interest is, in itself, seen as attractive to the observer.

"It may not seem like a surprising finding. It's exactly as you may expect – that you like people who find you likeable," said Ben Jones, one of the psychologists at Aberdeen University who carried out the study.

But the results indicate something more complex is also going on. They show that humans are engaging in a game of sexual strategies where both men and women are looking for signs that indicate the level of interest of a potential mate, Dr Jones said. "They are assessing who is likely to like them. It's not so much about holding eye contact with a member of the opposite sex, it's about looking at someone who you are interested in," he said. "It is all part of an ancient need to concentrate one's limited courting resources on potential mates who are realistically interested in you. "It wouldn't pay me, for instance, to spend time and effort on chasing supermodels but it would pay me to concentrate on women who smile at me in the street," he explained.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, tested the idea on a group of men and women who were asked to rate the attractiveness of a set of faces of members of the same and the opposite sex. The pictures showed people smiling, frowning, looking away and looking directly at the observer. The scientists found that of all the combinations, it was the happy, directly-gazing face that was viewed as the most attractive – especially when the pictures showed a person of the opposite sex to the observer.

This shows both men and women prefer faces of people who seem to like them and that attractiveness is not just about physical beauty. "It's the first demonstration to show people's preferences for being looked at depends on the emotional state of the person who is doing the looking, as well as their sex," Dr Jones said.

"It makes common sense, but it's the first time it's been shown. What we've shown is that people seem to like someone who likes them – based on the direction of their gaze – and it's particularly true of the opposite sex," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower