We all know there's a difference between being "in like" with someone and being "in love," but it's often hard to tell how the other person feels about you.
A new study about love and lust, recently published in Psychological Science, discovered how to tell if a person is feeling the romantic, long-term will-you-marry-me kind of love or the more common I-just-want-to-have-sex-with-you sexual lust.
It turns out, the answer lies in how they look at you.
Researchers from the University of Chicago conducted two studies on a group of heterosexual undergrads. In the first study, participants looked at a set of 120 photographs of couples and were asked if the photos elicited feelings of romantic love or sexual desire. Sexual desire was defined as an increase in sexual thoughts and fantasies toward a target, whereas love was defined as a sentimental and tender state that made participants long for a union.
Afterwards, the participants were shown the same photographs and asked simply to look at them and think about their feelings. While students were gazing at the photographs, their eye movements were tracked and recorded to determine where on the photo they fixated most and for how long.
In the second study, participants were given 80 photographs of individuals of the opposite sex and asked if they could possibly feel love toward or lust toward them. Again, their eye movements were tracked.
At the end of both studies, the results were pretty clear: "Subjects were more likely to fixate on the face when making decisions about romantic love," the researchers wrote. "Judgments that involved lust elicited more eye fixations toward the body."
Indeed, as the authors point out, "Mutual eye gaze is one of the most reliable markers of love between couples."
So if your S.O. spends more time looking at your face than looking at your butt, odds are good that he or she is in it for the long haul.