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Scientists Reveal The "Look of Love"

Update Date: Jul 18, 2014 06:20 PM EDT

The look of love does exist. Scientists found that there's a significant difference between love and lust when it comes to eye movements.

New research from the University of Chicago reveals that a person's gaze could reveal their true intentions.

When looking at potential partner in romantic love, our eye patterns tend to focus on a strangers face. However, our eyes tend to focus on the person's body if we're feeling sexual desire. Researchers said that this "judgment" could occur in as little as half a second.

"Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers," lead researcher Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago's High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory said in a news release.

In a previous study, Cacioppo and her team found that different regions of the brain are activated by love and sexual desire. Participants were asked to view photographs of young, adult heterosexual couples who were looking at or interacting with each other. They were also asked to view photographs of attractive individuals of the opposite sex who were looking directly at the camera.

In both experiments, participants had to decide as quickly as possible whether love or lust was depicted in each of the photographs. Researchers found that there were no significant differences in the time it took participants to identify romantic love or sexual desire, suggesting that the brain can quickly process both emotions.

However, eye-tracking data from the two experiments showed drastic differences in eye movement patterns, depending on whether the participants reported feeling sexual desire or romantic love.

The findings revealed that feelings of romantic love translated into eye patterns that focused on the face, and those of lust translated into eye patterns that fixated on the body. Researchers said that findings were true for both male and female participants.

"By identifying eye patterns that are specific to love-related stimuli, the study may contribute to the development of a biomarker that differentiates feelings of romantic love versus sexual desire," co-author John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, said in a news release. "An eye-tracking paradigm may eventually offer a new avenue of diagnosis in clinicians' daily practice or for routine clinical exams in psychiatry and/or couple therapy."

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

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