It is traditionally seen as a sign of confidence and being trustworthy – but making direct eye contact is not necessary, research suggests.
Looking at another part of the face will do just as well, a study found.
Scientists said people can hardly tell the difference whether someone is looking at their eyes or their mouth. The study, using eye-tracking glasses, found that when 46 people were spoken to by a researcher, they thought he was making eye contact even when he was looking at their lips.
And they enjoyed the conversation just as much. Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia found people who are unsure whether someone is looking at their ear, nose, mouth, forehead or eyes will usually guess it is the eyes.