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Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Can you tell what’s on someone’s mind just by looking into their eyes? A recent study suggests that you can. Researchers at the University of Chicago recently conducted a study that reveals certain eye patterns can indeed indicate a person’s true intentions. The study claims that when people are sizing up a potential love interest, their eye patterns will tell the tale of whether or not they are interested in a one-night stand or something more lasting. More specifically, they found that a person’s eyes will focus on an individual’s facial features when their interest is romance but tend to focus on their body when the interest is purely sexual.

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“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,” explained the study’s lead researcher Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago’s High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory.

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As part of the research, Cacioppo examined a 48-year-old heterosexual male in Argentina, who had suffered a stroke that damaged the function of his anterior insula, a portion of the cerebral cortex linked with emotions, the University of Chicago explained in a released statement. This man was matched with a control group of seven Argentinian heterosexual men of the same age who had healthy anterior insula.

The patient and the control group were then shown 40 photographs of attractive, young women dressed in various appealing outfits and asked whether these women were objects of sexual desire or love. The findings showed that the patient with the damaged anterior insula showed a much slower response when asked if the women in the photos could be objects of love.

In previous research conducted by Cacioppo, she found that different networks of brain regions are activated by love and sexual desire. In Cacioppo’s earlier research, her team performed two experiments to test visual patterns in an effort to assess two different emotional and cognitive states that are often difficult to distinguish from one another: romantic love and sexual desire, or lust.

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Cacioppo’s husband assisted her in the research as well and reached this conclusion: “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. 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.”

Science seems to say that there’s a look that can be gleamed from a person’s eyes that indicates love. Being able to identify whether that look is purely infatuation or something deeper is where love remains tough.

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