When you're sitting across from a date, amid all the other chatter in your brain, you may find yourself stressed about where to look. Do you focus on their mouth? Is it weird to stare at the bridge of their nose? If you gaze directly into their eyeballs, will you be able to see inside their soul? These are somewhat valid concerns to have when you're trying to make a meaningful impression on someone.
There's a common wives' tale that tries to help us out with this: It says, if you look into a person's left eye, it means you're connecting to their emotional side, because that's the side of the brain that processes emotion. Indeed, even Bachelorette contestants have used this fun fact as a ploy to get more attention during a cocktail party. But as you might suspect, fast-tracking a connection is not as simple as a one-eyed stare-down.
Anatomically speaking, the part of the brain called the cerebrum is divided into two hemispheres, left and right, according to Medline Plus. So, there are definitely "sides" of the brain. And it's been shown that the different sides of the brain do control different functions: the left hemisphere is responsible for speech and abstract thinking, and the right hemisphere controls spacial thinking and imagery, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine.
But people tend to use "left brain" and "right brain" to describe their personality, which is where it gets confusing. For example, if you're a "left-brained" type, then the belief is that you're a logical, analytical person, whereas "right-brained" people are supposedly more creative and intuitive. Bummer as it may be, research on brain scans has shown that people's brains don't actually favor a side. "We still don’t know a lot about what determines individual personality, but it seems unlikely that it’s the dominance of one side of the brain or the other that matters," Robert H. Shmerling, MD, wrote in the Harvard Health Blog this August.
More to the point: There's probably no connection between the hemispheres of the brain and which eye people tend to look at, according to a 2012 study that analyzed the eye motion patterns of 32 people while lying and telling the truth. Unfortunately, this is probably just another body-language myth being perpetuated because it can sound fun and flattering when you're on a date.
But that said, when you are face-to-face with a potential suitor, there may be some ways to "tap into their emotional side" using your eyes. For example, a not-so-shocking study from way back in 1970 found that couples who "loved each other a great deal" spend more time looking into their partner's eyes than couples who loved each other to a lesser degree. So, the amount of time that your date spends looking into your eyes could be a sign that they're interested.
Another study, from 1989, found that practicing "mutual gazing," defined as when two people make eye contact or look into each other’s eyes, can significantly increase feelings of passionate love and liking. (That's why the famous 36 Questions end by staring into your partner's eyes for two to four minutes — which is a very chill and normal way to end a date.)
While it might seem obvious that eye contact can improve a connection, it probably doesn't really matter which eye you or your date look into. Maybe instead of the "old wives," we can try following Hamilton's advice: Look them in the eye, aim no higher, and summon all the courage you require. Or, you know, just be yourself.