“We automatically focus our orientation to the same object that others are looking at”
When we’re confronted with faces, we can’t help but to intensely process the eyes and their highly expressive surrounding region. Eyes reveal otherwise secret and complex mental states such as emotions, intentions, beliefs, and desires. Research indicates that eye contact accounts for roughly 55% of the information in a face-to-face conversation!
But eyes also have the irresistible power to attract and direct our attention. The perceived gaze direction of a face shifts our visual attention as a powerful magnet in the same direction.
Scientific research example
Imagine you’re looking at a computer screen. There’s an image of a face appearing. You’re asked to indicate as quickly as possible, on which side of this face you see a symbol or letter appear.
However, psychologists Friesen & Kingstone sometimes try to distract you by letting the face look in a congruent or incongruent direction (about half a second before the symbol appears). Do you think that influences your performance? It sure does! Congruent gaze cueing significantly helps you in your performance, whereas incongruent gaze cueing makes it worse…
The Dutch online bank MoneYou tested gaze cueing by having the person in their ‘mortgage quick quote’ widget look in the direction of the quick quote fields, instead of looking at the visitor. This resulted in an increase of requested quotes of 9%.
Online Persuasion tips
- When using faces on you website, direct their look towards the important elements on your page.
- Place your important elements (such as your CTA) consistently on one (preferably the right) side, and have faces on your site look in that direction.
- Place negative elements (i.e. prices) outside the perceived gaze direction.
Further reading on Gaze Cueing:
- Frischen, Bayliss & Tipper – Psychological bulletin, (2007): “Gaze cueing of attention: visual attention, social cognition, and individual differences“
- Gaze Cueing on Wikipedia
- Chris Kelland Friesen, Alan Kingstone, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (September 1998), Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 490-495; “The eyes have it! Reflexive orienting is triggered by nonpredictive gaze”.