Science has finally deciphered how to tell if someone likes you. And it turns out, it’s all in that look—the look of love. New research from Wellesley and the University of Kansas claims people’s eye movements differ depending on whether they are sizing up someone they want to date or see as a friend. (Science has been busy in this area—here are 13 scientifically-proven ways to make yourself more attractive.)
The study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, analyzed the eye movements of 105 heterosexual undergraduates (male and female) when presented with photos of strangers. At the same time, the participants answered questions about whether they were interested in starting a friendship or a romantic relationship with that person. (This advice from a dating expert will help you meet and attract new people.)
“Research on attraction tends to assume there is a fixed set of characteristics that makes a person desirable. This new study shows that what people look for in a prospective relationship partner depends on their relational goals. The same person who makes a highly desirable friend may not make a good mate,” Angela Bahns, co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley, told ScienceDaily. (These true friendship stories will warm your heart.)
So how can you tell if someone likes you? According to the findings, both men and women looked at the head or chest of an opposite-sex person longer and more often when evaluating dating potential, compared with possible friendship. Both men and women looked at legs or feet with greater frequency when they were more interested in a platonic relationship. However, the study found a difference in the ways male and female eyes moved when deciding whether someone had dating potential. Male undergraduates typically looked at the chest and waist-to-hip region most often, regardless of whether they saw someone as a potential friend or date. On the other hand, women’s eyes mostly went to the chest and head. Men were also most likely to look at a woman’s legs. (Our eyes also influence how others see us—can you guess what these eyes are saying?)
What does this mean for the singles crowd? Women: Guys will check out your chest and waist-to-hip ratio regardless of whether they see you as friend or partner. But they will look longer and more often at your face when they have romance on their mind. Men: If a woman seems focused on your face and chest, she sees romantic potential. A gaze that wanders from your chest to your hips to your legs reveals that she’s interested in you—but it could either friendship or something more intimate. Just know that if she seems fixated on your noggin, you’re squarely in the friend zone.