Friday, 16 August 2013

Look At Me When I'm Talking! - Eye Contact

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Quite a frequent 'problem' with autists this one. Not looking at people's eyes when they're talking. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the most important one for me is just how awkward it feels when I look at a stranger's eyes. I don't really look 'into' their eyes, since I don't seem to see anything there.

I hope that doesn't make me sound inhuman... It doesn't mean I don't see emotions or facial expressions or things like that, they're just harder to notice. I'm lucky in that my social problems aren't too bad and I can normally tell how someone is feeling based on their voice and body language. I'll look at most of my friends' eyes now too. But it's taken years to get here. I've worked solidly on improving my social skills to get to where I am, with the support of my friends, and for some people that just isn't possible.

So what do I see when I look into someone's eyes? Well, the strange thing is, if I do look too long at someone's eyes, I don't want to look away. I get distracted by all the little details, the way the pupil contracts and dilates, the shifts in colour of the iris, how thick the dark band at the edge of the iris is, etc etc. But it's very rare that I'll notice real emotion. I'm just distracted, and it ends up looking like I'm staring at the person. Which I suppose I am really. Like I say though, normally it doesn't get that far. I just feel uncomfortable looking into eyes in general. It could be that eye contact triggers a fight or flight response, so I immediately want to look away regardless of the situation.

I seem to be less bothered when looking into girls eyes, but that's probably because I'm male, so I have an interest in girls in general. Also, the way my social life has gone has made me a lot more comfortable with girls than boys in general. When meeting a new girl, I'm a lot more likely to feel comfortable, make eye contact, be myself, than around a new guy. But that's for another article.

For a bit of extra reading, here's a thread on on the subject of eye contact, with several autistic people discussing it.

See you guys soon, and I hope you understand a bit more now!


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