Coincidentally, the English study coincides with new research from the University of California, Santa Barbara, that studied where our eyes fixate when looking at another face. That study found that we don't look directly at the other person's eyes. Instead, we tend to fixate just below the eyes, mostly along the ridge of the nose.
"For the majority of people, the first place we look at is somewhere in the middle, just below the eyes," psychologist Miguel Eckstein said in releasing that study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But why not focus on the eyes, if they are so important? Eckstein and his graduate student, Matt Peterson, theorize that we focus on the area between and slightly below the eyes because we are evolutionarily conditioned instantly to check far more than just the color of the other person's eyes. In other words, what we want to know is whether to fight, flee, or fall in love, so we need a broader source of information than just the eyes. Other facial characteristics, including the mouth and the nose, may add to our instant analysis of peril or pleasure.
"What the visual system is adept at doing is taking all those pieces of information from your face and combining them in a statistical manner to make a judgment about whatever task you're doing," Eckstein said.
In other words, do you fight or flee? The British study adds to a huge pile of research over many decades that suggests a man is more willing to confront, while a woman is more willing to retreat, so we look for different clues in the world around us. Even though we see the same world, we see it differently.