Faking Eye Contact

Given my recent interview, I thought this would be a good thing to address today.

You would never guess that I have autism based on my eye contact. I can look at someone for an entire conversation without looking away. But the thing is that I’m really not looking into their eyes during that time. I am completely faking it.

In fact, I fake it so well that I even manage to convince myself. In the past couple weeks though I have realized something that has nearly made me laugh out loud during my conversations. I almost never actually make eye contact. (That’s not the funny part.) The funny part is that people think I’m making eye contact. I find it hilarious that people have no idea that I’m not actually looking into their eyes.

What’s my secret?

I look at people’s eye lashes or the skin just beneath their eyes or their nose or their eye lid. Only every once in a while do I get caught in actual eye contact with someone and need to look away.

How do I know that people think I’m making eye contact?

Your eyes can’t focus on two places at once. Therefore it is impossible to look someone in both eyes at one time. So to compensate for this, your eyes move back and forth between looking at each eye. When someone is looking into your eyes you can sometimes see this back and forth movement. However, if someone isn’t looking into your eyes, their eyes probably won’t move back and forth because they are not constantly shifting focus between your eyes.

So I can sometimes notice someone’s eyes moving back and forth between mine and realize that they’re actually looking into my eyes, but I’m not really looking into theirs. In fact, this is a trick many people use without realizing it. If you get caught up looking into someone’s eyes it can be a very intense experience, but if you simply look at someone’s eyes it doesn’t have the same emotional effect.


13 thoughts on “Faking Eye Contact

  1. Thx for this….I wanted to share with you what happened to my son in kindergarten. We started getting comments he wasn’t attending ie looking at the teacher when she spoke. His SLP was concerned because sometimes it’s harder for some kids and especially ASDT kids when they are in the highly visual kindergarten room to look and listen at the same time. I told my son it was okay to glance away but try to keep looking back but look at the teachers nose. Suddenly I was getting all of these positive comments in his communication book that he was attending so well๐Ÿ˜Š but his SLP said lets get him watch a persons mouth when they speak so he learns from the movements etc. That worked well and helped him with the motor planning around his mouth. So I like what you have found that works and I will see if one of your “tricks” is something he can try too.


    • I had a hard time with eye contact in elementary school as well. For me though I couldn’t even glance at the teacher when she was talking to me because I just thought it was funny. I always thought people’s facial expressions were so funny. I didn’t understand why they were so serious looking when they were talking. I’ve gotten better at controlling my laughter though so it’s easier to look at their faces now.


  2. Haha! That’s brilliant! I’ll try to try that out some time! Making eye contact makes me panic. I wonder why it feel so icky though? Like, what’s the actual reason for that? Sometimes when someone asks me to look at them I just glance quickly in the direction of their eyes, but I can’t stand it any more than a few seconds, but if I tried focusing on something like their eye lashes like you said, maybe it wouldn’t feel so bad. I’m definitely trying this out! But how do you know for how long to hold the stare?


    • I think it’s that whole “the eye is the window to the soul” thing. When we look into someone’s eyes that means they’re looking back into ours. So it makes us uncomfortable to feel our inner self being exposed like that.
      And you can look at someone for an entire conversation if they’re looking at you that whole time. I generally only look away when they look away or when I’m trying to think of something to say.


      • That’s amazing that you manage to do that! I couldn’t pull that off, I would get so sick to my stomach. And that sounds so strange by the way, to look at someone through an entire conversation. Ugh.


      • Yeah, it is kind of strange. But that’s what most people want. They think if you’re not looking at them when they’re talking that you’re not listening and if you’re not looking at them when you’re talking then you’re distracted and what you’re saying is not important. Sometimes I actually pretend to be distracted just to look away for a while.


      • Hm. To me looking into someones eyes throughout a conversation sounds craaazy! Haha! I’m super-focused, and people’s like: are you listening? Or they get distracted by my shifting gaze. Gah.


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