Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 250–258 | Cite as

Eye-contact as a chance product of individual looking: Implications for the intimacy model of argyle and dean

  • D. R. Rutter
  • D. C. Pennington
  • M. E. Dewey
  • J. Swain


From time to time during social encounters, people look at one another in the region of the eyes, and sometimes their eyes meet to make eye-contact. According to Argyle and Dean (1965), eye-contact in dyadic encounters signals the intimacy of the interaction and is controlled largely by the competing approach and avoidance forces that motivate the pair. In the present paper, new analyses are reported of three published experiments that were designed originally to test aspects of the intimacy model and it is shown that the duration of eye-contact is no more than a chance product of how long the two subjects look individually. Looking and not eye-contact, it is argued, should be the basis for models of visual interaction, and the intimacy model is ill-founded conceptually; the role of emotion in gaze has been overstressed at the expense of the concept of information; and the most important aspect of vision is in any case not looking and eye-contact but visual access to the whole person. The more “cueless” the encounter—that is, the fewer the social cues from vision and all the other senses combined—the greater the psychological distance; and the greater the psychological distance, the more task-oriented and depersonalized the content of what people say and, in turn, the less spontaneous their style of speech and the less likely a debate to end in compromise.


Social Psychology Social Encounter Psychological Distance Visual Access Visual Interaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. R. Rutter
  • D. C. Pennington
  • M. E. Dewey
  • J. Swain

There are no affiliations available

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