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Eye Contact Evokes Blushing Independently of Negative Affect

Abstract

To determine whether eye contact elicits blushing due to anxiety, forehead blood flow was measured during a stressful quiz and self-disclosure. The investigator maintained eye contact with 19 participants whereas, in another 40 cases, the investigator and/or participant wore sunglasses or the investigator left the room (the control group). Anxiety, embarrassment, and forehead blood flow increased in both groups during the quiz, consistent with anxiety-evoked blushing. However, during self-disclosure, increases in forehead blood flow were greater in the eye contact than control group despite reductions in embarrassment and anxiety. These findings suggest that eye contact augments blushing over and above any influence of anxiety or general scrutiny during self-disclosure.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Dr Anna Cuomo-Granston for expert technical assistance.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Peter D. Drummond.

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Drummond, P.D., Bailey, T. Eye Contact Evokes Blushing Independently of Negative Affect. J Nonverbal Behav 37, 207–216 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-013-0155-z

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Keywords

  • Blushing
  • Anxiety
  • Embarrassment
  • Scrutiny
  • Eye contact