Women are more visually oriented than men in nonverbal communication. Females look more at others, attempt more to make eye contact, and are also looked at more than males. This gender difference is apparent even in early childhood.
Females are more likely to understand others in the presence of visual contact while males understand other better in the absence of visual contact. ~ Dutch communication scientist Roderick Swaab & Dutch neurobiologist Dick Swaab
The lowest levels of oculesic activity are between 2 men conversing, the highest between 2 women. In mixed-sex dyads, females accommodate to the male-gaze behavior norm. This is one factor why women typically feel more at ease talking with other women: more mutual eye contact and supportive gazes affords greater intimacy.
Females employ more short glances as flirtation signals, but their greater eye contact persists in long-term married couples.
Eye contact enables homosexuals to indicate to each other their sexual preference: an ability known as gaydar.
In primates, the less-powerful, more-submissive group members are more visually attentive, and especially wary of the more dominant animals. As the subjugated sex, the oculesic behavior of women is understandable from this sociobiological perspective. Yet gazing is sometimes associated with more social power, not less. Females employ eye contact to attain superior sociality.
Personality type also effects gaze. Extroverts look at other people more than introverts.
Individuals also differ in affiliation need. Some people are more emotively reliant upon social contact than others; they too tend to be lookers.
Culture also influences looking style during conversation. Those that favor contact – Arabs, Latin Americans, and southern Europeans – stand much closer, touch more often, and exchange more eye contact. This can be unsettling for those not used to such intimate social interaction and can lead to misunderstanding.
The levels of nonverbal intercourse during conversation that non-contact cultures practice can be interpreted by those from a contact culture as insincerity, dishonesty, or, at best, impoliteness. Conversely, Americans and northern Europeans may feel contact-culture patterns are disrespectful, insulting, or even threatening.
People trust those who look them in the eye. Good liars know this: thus, much trust is misplaced.