Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Blind Eye to Love

The eyes convey a vast range of emotional cues.

The eyes convey a vast range of emotional cues that help us get along with, and understand, each other

By Bob Beale

Lack of interest in holding a mother’s gaze may be an early indicator of problems to come, such as serious crime, violence and drug-taking.

Bob Beale is Public Affairs Manager at the University of NSW Faculty of Science.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Asked to picture a psycho­path, you might conjure up a horror movie character: someone prone to violence or even serial murder, coldly scrutinising you with unblinking eyes.

In fact, only a tiny proportion of psychopaths are killers: most psychopaths are involved in far more mundane criminality or callous exploitation of other people for their own ends, notes Prof Mark Dadds of the University of NSW School of Psychology.

Psychopaths are antisocial and emotionally cold, and new evidence indicates that a core feature is that they lack a natural propensity to focus on the eyes of other people.

Our natural interest in the eyes of other people holds important clues to understanding the workings of both healthy and unhealthy minds, Dadds notes.

Eye contact is vital to normal human relations: from a parent’s stern look to lovers gazing at each other, the eyes convey a vast range of emotional cues that help us get along with, and understand, each other.

“Our inherent interest in the eyes of other people lies at the origin of empathy, connectedness and attachment, and some of the earliest evolved parts of our brains are dedicated to driving our attention to the eyes of other people,” says Dadds.

Recent research led by Dadds suggests that impairments in human eye contact may be reliable signs of psychological

problems detectable in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.