Researchers in Britain have determined the ideal length of time for two people to hold eye contact with one another before it begins to feel uncomfortable.
By asking a random selection of people that were visiting the London Science Museum to participate in a brief experiment, scientists were able to collect enough data to determine the perfect length of time to hold eye contact with another person.
The experiment consisted of a video of an actor staring directly into the camera, simulating the appearance of eye contact on the screen. Participants were then instructed to watch the screen, which played the video for a randomly determine amount of time, and then describe their comfort level of the experience. Secondary cameras were also used to measure pupil dilation.
The eye contact video played as briefly as a fraction of a second, or as long as 10 seconds. The ideal length was determined to be approximately 3 seconds, with similar reactions taking place between 2 and 5 seconds.
Across the board there was a consensus that less than one second and more than 9 seconds were uncomfortable.
There were more than 500 participants from 56 countries involved in the experiment, coming from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. This helps equalize any differences caused by social norms and personality types.