In the study conducted by Brooks, Church and Fraser (2001), 60 male and 60 female American students viewed videotapes of models who maintained eye contact with another person for either 5 s, 30 s, or 50 s. Eye contact was spaced out in the form of glances. After viewing the tape, participants were asked to rate the model based on 21 bipolar adjectives, such as “not ambitious/ambitious,” “indecisive/decisive,” and “unaggressive/aggressive.”
This study supports the notion in Western society that eye contact is a dominant nonverbal cue. Because discomfort, for example the kind that comes when confronted with a difficult question (Hiscock, 1975) or when hesitating to find the right words (Kendon, 1967) causes our gaze to shift, we are likely to perceive the opposite (i.e. confidence) when an individual maintains more eye contact.
Brooks, C., Church, M.A., Fraser, L. (2001). Effects of Duration of Eye Contact on Judgments of Personality Characteristics. The Journal of Social Psychology, 126(1), 71-78.