Japanese researchers have just proven that it's almost impossible to maintain eye contact with another person while struggling to find the "right word." They note that the part of the brain that deals with sustaining eye contact also deals heavily with linguistics. This makes it very difficult for a person to have a fast conversation staring straight into another's eyes.
This research was done at Japan's prestigious Kyoto University . The researchers took a look at many different videos where people were taped talking to others. They observed that people who tried to artificially maintain eye contact throughout the discussion had a slower response time than those that looked away every now and then.
Professors noted that this phenomenon was quite obvious when people were searching for less common words. As an example, researchers said a person generally has no difficulty relating the world "ball" to "bounce." However, a word like "phone" will probably require greater mental acrobatics. That's because a greater number of possible word connections (e.g. ring, call, talk, answer) appear for "phone" rather than for "ball."
Cognitive scientists conclude from this research that the brain gets flustered when trying to both keep attention fixed on a person's face and speak to another person. They believe looking away is a healthy response from our brain to avoid mental overload. Looking away gives a person the "mental space" to be able to communicate more effectively with others.
These Japanese researchers believe that their work indicates a direct linkage between "domain-general cognitive resource" and finding the right verbs in the brain. They note that people interested in dysfunctional communication need to give equal measure to the visual and verbal elements of communication.
This study was published in the most recent edition of the medical journal Cognition. Professors in Kyoto didn't say whether or not they will look further into this issue in the future.