The first two questions of the survey were in regard to the eye contact reciprocated between the confederate and the subject. The second part of question two was an open-ended question where the subject could write their interpretation of the eye contact made between themselves and the confederate. Questions three through ten of the survey pertained to personal questions about the subject. Questions four and five were simple questions in reference to gender and relationship status. The subject was provided answers to choose from. Questions six was an opened ended questions about relationship length. If the subject had answered this question in “years dated”, the experimenter later formatted this data into “months dated” for consistency. Questions seven through ten used a five point Likert scaling system to rate relationship satisfaction, social anxiety, intensity of social anxiety, and self-rated attractiveness. The 11th and final question of the survey asked the subject, for a second time, their interpretation of the eye contact with the confederate.
After question 11, the survey contained a paragraph thanking the subject for their participation and provided contact information if they were interested in finding out more facts or the results of the study.
One-hundred-and-fifty subjects were targeted as potential subjects in the study. Of the original sample, 46 individuals from different locations on the UNCW campus agreed to participate.
Five research teams spread themselves to various locations on the UNCW campus. One member of the research team was designated as the experimenter, which approached the target after eye contact was established and distributed and collected the surveys. Another member of the team was selected as a confederate, or actor, which attempted to make eye contact with potential targets. The remaining members of the group were designated as recorders, which stood at a distance of approximately 20 feet, while keeping track of the incoming data.
Subjects were only targeted if the had no previous communication or relationship with any member of the research team. Also, the confederate only targeted subjects of the opposite sex.
The experimenter and the confederate together engaged in natural activities, such as having a conversation at a table. The confederate found a potential subject and attempted to make eye contact with reciprocation. Reciprocation must have occurred 3 times, with a length of at least 2 seconds each time. If reciprocation occurred under the previous provisions, the experimenter would then approach the subject.
The experimenter would first approach the subject by explaining his affiliation to the university, as a psychology student. The experimenter would then go on to say that he is conducting an anonymous survey as a psychology student. The experimenter continued to explain that the survey would not take more than two minutes to complete.
If the subject did not agree to participate in the study, the experimenter kindly thanked them for their time and returned to their designated observation area. If the subject did agree to participate, the first two questions of the survey were administered by the experimenter in an interview fashion. The remaining nine questions of the survey were filled out by the subject. The subject was then asked by the experimenter to complete the remaining nine questions of the survey.
After the subject filled out the survey, they were kindly thanked for their participation.
The data from this study was obtained from the survey administered to participants. All categorical data was recoded into numerical values.
Of the original sample of 150 targets, 61 (19 males and 42 females) individuals reciprocated eye contact with the confederate. A frequency distribution of gender spilt by reciprocation showed only 19 males reciprocated gaze out of the targeted 63 males. A frequency distribution of gender also showed that 42 females reciprocated gaze out of the targeted 107 females. Beyond this data, of the 19 males that returned reciprocal eye contact, four refused to participate in the study. Forty-two females returned reciprocal eye contact and 11 refused to participate in the study.
The survey measured the mean and standard deviation of four variables for the 46 participants: relationship satisfaction (M = 3.65, SD= 1.73); social anxiety (M = 1.96, SD = .868); intensity of social anxiety (M = 2.02, SD = 1.00); self-rated attractiveness (M = 3.28, SD = .696). The means and standard deviations of these four variables were based out of a five point Likert scale.
A chi square test of independence was run and it showed that there was a significant relationship between gender and interpretation of eye contact by the subject, x² (2, N=46) = 9.56, p < .05. Observed frequencies for gender and interpretation categories were as followed: familiarity= males 0, females 5; friendly= males 0, females 2; appearance= males 3, females 0; attraction= males 3, females 5.
A simple regression was run to examine the relationship between interpretation and social anxiety intensity score and found a significant result, F (1, 43) = 4.51, p < .05. A simple regression was run to measure the relationship between anxiety and interpretation category recode. With r = -0.351 and p < .05, a negative correlation was found. As anxiety score increases there was a tendency for the category response to fall into the lowered valued responses. Split by gender, this relationship did not hold for both males and females, but only for females.
Finally, a regression was run to examine the relationship between self-rated
attractiveness and recode of interpretation and found a significant relationship with
r = -.622 and p<.05.
The survey revealed that of the 46 participants, most were generally satisfied with their current relationship satisfaction (M = 3.65, SD= 1.73). Also, there was a low occurrence of subjects that reported suffering from social anxiety (M = 1.96, SD = .868). This finding supports findings by Gamer and Hecht (2007) that had previously found individuals that suffer from social phobia do not make eye contact in social settings. Most likely, an individual who suffers from social phobia would not have participated in our study because, just as Gamer and Hecht (2007) suggested, they would not have reciprocated eye contact the required amount of times.
Results of the study also found that observed frequencies for interpretation of eye contact and gender had a significant relationship. Males were less likely to interpret eye contact as familiarity or friendly, and were more likely to interpret the eye contact as appearance or attractiveness. In contrast, females were much more likely to interpret eye contact as familiarity, friendly, or attracted. Our data is supported by findings that males place heavier influence than females on the physical characteristics of their prospective romantic partner (Nevid, 1984).
The present study only took into account heterosexual individuals. Confederates only targeted eye contact reciprocation from individuals of the opposite sex. The survey does not take into account that some of the individuals surveyed may have been homosexual and were not targeted by confederates of their sexual preference. Even if an individual’s sexual preference is of the opposite sex, findings from a study conducted suggest that often individuals are attracted to the same sex- they just don’t admit it (Maner, 2007).
As previously discussed, individuals who scored high on the Narcissism Personality Inventory were less likely to list desired attributes such as “honesty” and “integrity” as important in a romantic partner. These individuals were much more likely to stress the importance of physical attributes (Campbell, 1999). The present study came across similar findings. There was a significant relationship between those who rated themselves higher on the scale of self-rated attractiveness and interpreted eye contact as an attraction. This may be because people with narcissistic characteristics find boosts in self esteem by being gratified by others.
Future studies may want to alter the design of the present study. Although anonymity was reassured at least two times to every participant, they were still forced to complete the survey in an extremely social setting. This may have prevented participants from completing the survey honestly. With the experimenter standing close by, purposeful distortion may have occurred, where the subject may have answered the survey with answers that he would not be shameful of. This problem could have been solved by letting the subject fill out the survey away from the experimenter and confederate and also by providing an envelope for the survey to be placed in after being completed. Both of these procedures would allow for more anonymity and, in turn, more reliable data.
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