Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Does eye contact make a speaker "smarter?" ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Does eye contact make a speaker "smarter?"
Category: Science > Social Sciences
Asked by: stetotex-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 06 May 2006 06:01 PDT
Expires: 05 Jun 2006 06:01 PDT
Question ID: 726024
I'm looking for a book or scholarly article that explores a connection
between a speaker's eye contact with his/her listener and the
speaker's cognitive function -- that is, do people speak more
effectively (by some measure like word economy or vocal power or
coherence of their message) when they're making eye contact in a
particular way with their audience?  Does maintaining the "right" kind
of eye contact make a speaker "smarter?"
Subject: Re: Does eye contact make a speaker "smarter?"
Answered By: welte-ga on 18 May 2006 08:30 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Hi stetotex-ga, and thanks for your question.  

The short answer to your question is "yes."  A recent review article
published in Applied Ergonomics looked at the effect on listeners of
looking at (or not looking at) the camera by the person giving a video
sales presentation (to provide some type of control - you can't look
at everyone all the time) on information recall.  The article also
discusses similar situations, such as the improved ability of children
to recall stories with teacher eye contact, and other studies looking
at improved learning with face-to-face or "mutual gaze" contact.

Here's an abstract and reference for this article:

"The impact of looking into the camera during a presentation over a
video link (resulting in the perception of mutual gaze) on information
recall was investigated. In a face-to-face context mutual gaze has
been shown to facilitate the encoding and subsequent recall of
information [Fry, R., Smith, G.F., 1975. The effects of feedback and
eye contact on performance of a digit-coding task. J. Soc. Psychol.
96, 145-146; Otteson, J.D., Otteson, C.R., 1980. Effect of teacher's
gaze on children's story recall. Percept. Motor Skill. 50, 35-42;
Sherwood, J.V., 1988. Facilitative effects of gaze upon learning.
Percept. Motor Skill. 64 (3 Part 2), 1275-1278]. One explanation for
these findings is that gaze acts as an arousal stimulus, which
increases attentional focus and therefore enhances memory [Kelley,
D.H., Gotham, J., 1988. Effects of immediacy on recall of information.
Commun. Edu. 37(3), 198 207]. Two studies were conducted in order to
test whether gazing at the camera during video-mediated presentations
resulted in similar benefits as mutual gaze in a face-to-face context.
In study 1 a confederate presented information about two fictitious
soap products. In one condition, the confederate gazed at the camera
for 30% of the presentation, therefore giving the participants the
impression that he was gazing in their direction. In the other
condition the confederate did not gaze at the camera. Participants
viewed the sales presentations from both conditions. In the condition
where gaze was directed at the camera, participants recalled
significantly more information about the sales presentation. Study 2
employed the same pre-recorded sales presentations used in study 1,
however they were delivered to the participants under audio-only
conditions (therefore, the image was switched off). Results from study
2 indicated no recall differences between the two conditions. Findings
from these studies would seem to indicate that the perception of gaze
aversion over a video link (a consequence of the salesman not looking
into the camera) has a negative impact on information recall. This has
practical implications for video-mediated presentations. In a distance
learning environment lecturers could be advised to look into the
camera in order to promote more efficient learning in students."

Effect of gazing at the camera during a video link on recall.(Author
Abstract). Chris Fullwood and Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon.  Applied
Ergonomics 37.2 (March 2006): p167(9).

This article isn't available freely online, but you can request a free
reprint from Chris Fullwood:


Another review article looked at the effect of eye contact on
compliance with requests (e.g., pick up of hitchhikers with and
without eye contact, likelihood of helping someone, etc.):

Gueguen N, Jacob C.   Direct look versus evasive glance and compliance
with a request.  J Soc Psychol. 2002 Jun;142(3):393-6.

You can find the free full text of this article in English here:


To look at a somewhat different teaching / recall context, one study
reviewed the qualities that made for more effective teaching in choral
rehearsals, finding that eye contact and facial expressions.

"Seven rehearsal excerpts demonstrating research-identified teaching
skills were presented to university music majors (N = 89) for ratings
and comments. The excerpts focused on the conductor/teacher and were
selected from previously taped choral rehearsals of two contrasting
pieces across one complete semester. Numerical ratings from 1 to 10
were assigned by subjects to 10 categories of student and teacher
behavior: time use, musicianship, accuracy of presentation, student
attentiveness, student performance quality, enthusiasm, intensity,
pacing, personality, and overall effectiveness. Comparisons of the
characteristics of the highest-rated excerpt with the lowest-rated
showed that the highest-rated excerpt contained less off-task student
behavior, a higher percentage of approvals, more eye contact, more
activity changes, and that the average length of both teacher and
student activities was from 5-6 seconds. Subjects' comments revealed
that the highest-rated excerpt received the most positive comments and
the lowest-rated received the most negative comments. For the
highest-rated excerpt, the most positive comments were for student
attentiveness, enthusiasm, pacing, and overall teaching effectiveness;
and for the lowest-rated, the most negative comments were for student
attentiveness, pacing, and overall teaching effectiveness."

The Evaluation of Teaching in Choral Rehearsals.  Cornelia Yarbrough;
Katia Madsen.  Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 46, No. 4.
(Winter, 1998), pp. 469-481.

You can request a reprint of this article from Cornelia Yarbrough at LSU:

The following article is more of a guide for giving academic medical
presentations, but does give some comments on eye contact and improved

Mayer K. Fundamentals of surgical research course: research
presentations. J Surg Res. 2005 Oct;128(2):174-7.

You can request a reprint from Dr. Mayer:


There is discussion of eye contact in the classroom in the text below:

"After each list of six items was read, the teacher supplied the
student with a slip of paper to reproduce the list.  The accuracy of
the reproduction served as the measure of cognitive learning."

"Analysis of variance indicated that each of the two types of
immediacy behaviors increased learning.  Physical immediacy accounted
for 11.4% of the total learning and eye contact accounted for 6.9%. 
An interaction of the two immediacy conditions accounted for an
additional 1.2% of the variance.  This came as a function of the very
negative impact of the combination of low physical immediacy and no
eye contact condition."

Power in the Classroom: Communication, Control, and Concern by
Virginia P. (EDT) Richmond, James C. (EDT) McCroskey, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 1992, p. 110.

Another text discusses the "dynamic" vs. "static" lecture, where one
of the components of the dynamic lecture was eye contact.  The dynamic
condition was generally a state of "teacher enthusiasm," and included
"movement, gesturing, eye contact with students, vocal inflection, and
minimal reliance on lecture notes."

The mean recall for a 10 item multiple choice test after lectures of
these types was 20% higher for the dynamic lectures compared to static

Effective Teaching in Higher Education. Raymond P. Perry and John C.
Smart (Eds.). Agathon Press, 1997. p. 190.


Also of potential interest (but not a scholarly article) is this
report from American Salesman, discussing the effects of eye contact
on listeners:

"Eye contact is one of the most effective means that public speakers
can use to establish rapport with their audience. When used properly
and when the conditions are right, eye contact can have an even
greater impact on the listeners than the content of the speech itself.
However, contrary to common belief, good eye contact does not mean
scanning the room continually or looking over the top of the
listeners' heads. Constant scanning prevents the speaker from seeing
anyone and establishing a connection with the audience, while looking
over the top of their heads deprives the speaker of the chance to read
the listeners' expressions and reactions. Several tips on the
effective use of eye contact are discussed."

Delivering your speech right between their eyes. Marjorie Brody.  
American Salesman v43.n8 (August 1998): pp29(2).


There are also more abstract effects of maintaining eye contact while
giving a lecture.  For example, one recent article found that those
who make eye contact are consistently rated as more attractive and
likable, which likely increases attention and plays a role in recall.

"When Dartmouth College researchers had 43 men and women judge the
faces of people who either turned their gaze toward or away from the
viewer, they found that women who made eye contact were consistently
rated more attractive and likable."

Looking Good.(News & Trends)(Brief Article). Sharon Liao.  Prevention
57.9 (Sept 2005): p46.


I hope this information is useful.  Please feel free to request any
clarification prior to rating.



Search strategies:

Multiple searches on academic databases including Ovid, JStor,
InfoTrac, and ProQuest.

Searches on Google, Google Scholar, and Google Books.  Here is an example search:

"eye contact" recall memory learning -"sign language"
gaze recall memory learning

Request for Answer Clarification by stetotex-ga on 20 May 2006 07:57 PDT
Dear welte-ga.  

Thanks for the useful information!  Myoarin is right, it's not exactly
to the question I've asked, but it's useful enough to earn the amount
posted for this question.

Thanks for your help.


Clarification of Answer by welte-ga on 20 May 2006 18:40 PDT
Hi again stetotex-ga,

My apologies for not reading your question more carefully.  

Here is another highly cited paper that gets a little closer to what
you were asking:  The authors looked at groups of people where one
person was trying to get a second person to recreate their map/image
using verbal cues.  This is similar to a controlled version of a
presentation where a speaker is trying to convey information to an
audience.  One of the main variables they examined was the effect of
eye contact on both the speaker and the listening subject.  Table 1 of
this article describes the differences with and without eye contact.

If you are unable to view or convert the Postscript file above, you
can download a PDF version here:

I recommend saving the PDF version, since this file will likely be
deleted within a couple of weeks.

Here is a list of links to books and articles that cite the above work:

You may also be interested in this article that looked at the effects
of copresense (both simulated and real).  Table 2 summarizes the

Feel free to request any additional information or clarification for
this question.



On Google Scholar:
"eye contact" speaker effects
stetotex-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Does eye contact make a speaker "smarter?"
From: myoarin-ga on 18 May 2006 14:21 PDT
That is all very fine, but I understood the question to ask something else:
Does the speaker speak more effectively when s/he maintains eye
contact (not that the listeners perceive him to be more honest; pay
more attention; recall better what he has said).

This is a very different matter, and very interesting, and perhaps
very difficult to demonstrate, since that would require some kind of
study of individual speakers, but there could be no experiments such
as described above, because it would be impossible to test an
individual objectively.

Why?  Because he would have to be asked to respond twice to the same
question or describe a certain situation, once maintianing eye
contact, once while not doing so.  But since the responses would
follow one another, the second time, he would naturally choose his
words more carefully, having already formulated his first response,
regardless of whether the second time he was looking at his
listener(s) or gazing of in space while he chose his words.

Furthermore, it depends greatly on the natural speaking habits of each
individual, and also on the subject and situation.  In a general
discussion, eye contact can give indications of the listener's
reaction (e.g., a sales pitch), allowing the speaker to choose his
words to how he sees the listener respond.
In other situations, say, when responding to a difficult question
after a lecture, he may find it easier to chose his words by avoiding
eye contact that distracted him from the task of carefully phrasing
his response.

Granted, however, as explained in the answer, he will make a better
impression on his listener(s) if he can appear to maintain eye contact
while replying  - as all professional speakers know.  But we don't
know if he might not have foregone  a better response by opting to
respond with eye contact, thereby making a better impression on his

I am reminded of the many insipid, even falacious responses made by
politicians that are presented with great eye contact, which carries
their argument for the moment (TV sound bite), but that don't stand up
to analysis in the newspapers the next morning.
Subject: Re: Does eye contact make a speaker "smarter?"
From: myoarin-ga on 20 May 2006 09:19 PDT
I am sure that Welte would have preferred that you did not immediately
rate the question after posting your request for clarification. 
Perhaps the answer could have been revised/expanded to provide the
information that you did want.

Next time ...


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy