Eyes left. Eyes right.

To a lesser or greater extent we all ‘read’ people’s eyes without knowing how or why –I know I do this a lot and am deeply frustrated by people who talk to me whilst wearing sunglasses!

What I didn’t know about eyes until recently is that their movements to the left and right signal meanings.

 Apparently eyes tend to look right when the brain is imagining or creating (right side of the brain), and left when the brain is recalling or remembering (left side of the brain).

Chiefly based on the NLP theory relating to sensory awareness, developed in the 1960s, some interesting and telling observations have been collated, although to make to make conscious use of them does sound rather like hard work:

Signal Possible
meaning(s)
 Explanation
looking right (generally) creating, fabricating, guessing, lying, storytelling Creating here is basically making things up and saying them. Depending on context this could indicate lying, but in other circumstances, for example, storytelling to a child, this would be perfectly normal. Looking right and down indicates accessing feelings, which again can be a perfectly genuine response or not, depending on the context, and to an extent the person.
looking left (generally) recalling, remembering, retrieving ‘facts’ Recalling and and then stating ‘facts’ from memory in appropriate context often equates to telling the truth. Whether the ‘facts’ (memories) are correct is another matter. Left downward looking indicates silent self-conversation or self-talk, typically in trying to arrive at a view or decision.
looking right and up visual imagining, fabrication, lying Related to imagination and creative (right-side) parts of the brain, this upwards right eye-movement can be a warning sign of fabrication if a person is supposed to be recalling and stating facts.
looking right sideways imagining sounds Sideways eye movements are believed to indicate imagining (right) or recalling (left) sounds, which can include for example a person imagining or fabricating what another person has said or could say.
looking right and down accessing feelings This is a creative signal but not a fabrication – it can signal that the person is self-questioning their feelings about something. Context particularly- and other signals – are important for interpreting more specific meaning about this signal.
looking left and up recalling images truthfulness Related to accessing memory in the brain, rather than creating or imagining. A reassuring sign if signalled when the person is recalling and stating facts.
looking left sideways recalling or remembering sounds Looking sideways suggests sounds; looking left suggests recalling or remembering – not fabricating or imagining. This therefore could indicate recalling what has been said by another person.
looking left down self-talking, rationalizing Thinking things through by self-talk – concerning an outward view, rather than the inward feelings view indicated by downward right looking.
direct eye contact (when speaking) honesty – or faked honesty Direct eye contact is generally regarded as a sign of truthfulness, however practised liars know this and will fake the signal.
direct eye contact (when listening) attentiveness, interest, attraction Eyes which stay focused on the speakers eyes, tend to indicate focused interested attention too, which is normally a sign of attraction to the person and/or the subject.
widening eyes interest, appeal, invitation Widening the eyes generally signals interest in something or someone, and often invites positive response. Widened eyes with raised eyebrows can otherwise be due to shock, but aside from this, widening eyes represents an opening and welcoming expression. In women especially widened eyes tend to increase attractiveness, which is believed by some body language experts to relate to the eye/face proportions of babies, and the associated signals of attraction and prompting urges to protect and offer love and care, etc.
rubbing eye or eyes disbelief, upset, or tiredness Rubbing eyes or one eye can indicate disbelief, as if checking the vision, or upset, in which the action relates to crying, or tiredness, which can be due boredom, not necessarily a need for sleep. If the signal is accompanied by a long pronounced blink, this tends to support the tiredness interpretation.
eye shrug frustration An upward roll of the eyes signals frustration or exasperation, as if looking to the heavens for help.
pupils dilated (enlarged) attraction, desire The pupil is the black centre of the eye which opens or closes to let in more or less light. Darkness causes pupils to dilate. So too, for some reason does seeing something appealing or attractive. The cause of the attraction depends on the situation. In the case of sexual attraction the effect can be mutual – dilated pupils tend to be more appealing sexually than contracted ones, perhaps because of an instinctive association with darkness, night-time, bedtime, etc., although the origins of this effect are unproven. Resist the temptation to imagine that everyone you see with dilated pupils is sexually attracted to you.
blinking frequently excitement, pressure Normal human blink rate is considered to be between six and twenty times a minute, depending on the expert. Significantly more than this is a sign of excitement or pressure. Blink rate can increase to up to a hundred times a minute. Blink rate is not a reliable sign of lying.
eyebrow raising (eyebrow ‘flash’) greeting, recognition, acknowledgement Quickly raising and lowering the eyebrows is called an ‘eyebrow flash’. It is a common signal of greeting and acknowledgement, and is perhaps genetically influenced since it is prevalent in monkeys (body language study does not sit entirely happily alongside creationism). Fear and surprise are also signalled by the eyebrow flash, in which case the eyebrows normally remain raised for longer, until the initial shock subsides.
winking friendly acknowledgement, complicity (e.g., sharing a secret or joke) Much fuss was made in May 2007 when George W Bush winked at the Queen. The fuss was made because a wink is quite an intimate signal, directed exclusively from one person to another, and is associated with male flirting. It is strange that a non-contact wink can carry more personal implications than a physical handshake, and in many situations more than a kiss on the cheek. A wink is given additional spice if accompanied by a click of the tongue. Not many people can carry it off. Additionally – and this was partly the sense in which Bush used it – a wink can signal a shared joke or secret

So, it is all in the eyes then.

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