Love at First Sight? – Eye Tracking Physical Attraction on a Blind Date

Latest episode of the Function online video series uses Tobii Pro eye tracking to study first impressions on a date

Dating Pro Glasses 2

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The latest episode of Function’s online video series gets to the bottom of what attracts people to one another. Titled “The Science of Dating (Eye Tracking Ep. 2),”Function enlisted seven participants to wear eye tracking glasses from Tobii Pro during a series of 7 to 12 minute blind dates.

The eye tracking technology measured where people were focusing their attention when engaged in conversation with their date. On average, a person’s face was the center point of attention 33 percent of the time. Participants interested in a second date gazed at the other person’s face 36 percent of the time, as opposed to 30 percent for those who focused on the face but passed on any future date. Of those who wanted a second date, their pupil diameter was, on average, larger during the course of conversation (5.53 mm) and smaller (5.27 mm) for those who subsequently passed on the opportunity when asked.

Eye-to-eye contact and conversation topics were also important indicators of attraction. On one date where a participant said there was no “spark,” the person being eye tracked looked at his date’s eyes 7 percent of the time, whereas the entire group usually spent 11 percent of the time, on average, maintaining eye contact. On that same date, only five topics of conversation were discussed, while other daters would average nine topics of conversation. The most popular topics with the group were occupation, personal background, personality, education, media and travel. The amount of laughter during these discussions also indicated possible attraction. Daters who wanted a second date laughed twice as much (7 percent) vs. those who didn’t (3 percent).

"Eye tracking offers a unique vantage point on the non-verbal communication that goes on during a date,” said Caitlin Cooper, New York-based Dating Consultant and Matchmaker with Three Day Rule. “The average person is completely unaware of how much is being said through just their body language. Having this data on hand can definitely help singles who are looking to make a good first impression and wanting to make that love match.”

The eye tracking glasses from Tobii Pro used in the video are equipped with a scene camera, infrared illuminators and four cameras taking up to 100 pictures per second, collecting data of the exact point of where a person is focusing their attention. This data is then mapped and analyzed to reveal unique insights on perception during the course of the date.

“The dating study shows just how versatile eye tracking has become for studying people in real-world environments," said Mike Bartels, a Senior Research Director for Tobii Pro. “Social psychologists have relied on eye tracking to understand how social situations influence perception and attitudes for years, but much of that research was relegated to laboratory settings. New advances by Tobii Pro have taken accurate, objective eye tracking out of the confines of the lab and into the wild.”

The Function video spotlights the many ways eye tracking technology can be applied. The first episode of the series employed eye tracking to understand how an expert and novice play the piano. The findings offered unique insight on how they approach the keyboard and read sheet music, insights they themselves were not even aware of about their performance. It showed eye tracking’s potential as a training tool for instruction. 

"The Function series combines filmmaking with science and technology to help us understand our lives from a new perspective,” said Patrick Adelman and Munna Koorath, Co-founders of Fractal Media who are behind the Function series. “Eye tracking hammers that point home, allowing for a unique way to study how we interact socially.”

More information

  • Watch a video on Tobii Pro in 2 Minutes - Eye Tracking for Research
  • Visit the Tobii Pro newsroom for more information on eye tracking
  • See more from Fractal