Ah, the power of a lingering stare: When total strangers maintain eye contact for a few minutes, a meaningful connection forms (according to studies like this one from the National Institute of Physiological Science in Japan, released in December). Ray-Ban decided to test this theory out with a series of videos entitled Eye to Eye: A Social Experiment in Courage. In the series of videos, sets of strangers make eye contact and ask a series of 36 questions for a four-minute period — and get incredibly personal, incredibly fast. The conversations span the gamut of traumatic life experiences, including a breakup spurred by having a mastectomy; a sexual abuse incident leading one man to come out to his family; cross-dressing for the very first time; and witnessing a parent’s death. “I feel like some weight has been lifted off my chest,” says one Eye to Eye participant at the end of the poignant, very revealing one-on-one; another calls the experience “therapeutic.” Various brands have dabbled in social experiments involving strangers — which often have nothing to do with items on offer — like this Wren video from 2014 of strangers kissing that boosted sales an astounding 14,000%, for example, or like projects Dove has done before.
The videos are just one component (dubbed “Open Your Heart”) of the classic specs brands’ expansive #ItTakesCourage campaign, which is comprised of seven other parts — “Fight Perfection,” “Face Critics,” “Do Your Part,” “Push Yourself,” “Start New,” “Unplug,” and “Face Your Fears.” The campaign aims to communicate "that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it, that is not just physical bravery but is what pushes people to face their fears and to go beyond their limits," according to a Ray-Ban rep. Expect the campaign to continue rolling out over the next six months (we're hoping for more touching videos like these!). The print ads in #ItTakesCourage feature eight scenarios intended to illustrate these eight acts of courage, from a guy surfing amid a school of sharks for “Face Your Fears,” to a couple having a meaningful-looking IRL conversation on the subway, surrounded by a sea of people with smartphones covering their faces — literally — for “Unplug.” Check out the Eye to Eye videos, below.