The “eyes” have it: why your photos should make eye contact

February 23, 2015

We’ve all received the advice, “make eye contact!” But it turns out there’s psychological and scientific backing to this maxim, and it holds true for good impressions and visual storytelling.

Researchers from the Cornell University Food and Brand lab surveyed 86 different cereal box characters and found that 57 gazed downwards, directly at children glancing up into grocery shelves. They also found that participants were more likely to buy a box of Trix that made eye contact versus one that did not.

The study concluded that eye contact can increase our trust in certain characters and brands, elevating our attention to and connection with the product. The same holds true for publicity campaigns and photo selection.

Humans are biologically programmed not to look away from people looking straight at us. We instinctively study faces, eyes, and expressions to gauge what others are feeling and judge if they are friend or foe.

So, people are more likely to connect with a message that connects with their eyes. Photos of people making eye contact with the viewer can help establish common ground between your cause and your audience.

–Claire Kelloway, Winter Intern