Looking at the Dominant Eye

We all see with a preferred eye.  Our dominant eye focuses on an object and our other eye provides the necessary angle to give us the perception of depth.

Here’s how you can do a test to find your dominant eye:

The dominant eye is the eye that looks directly at an object. The non-dominant eye is the eye that looks at the same object at a slight angle. This small difference provides depth perception.

Being right or left handed will not necessarily determine if you are right or left eye dominant.

Eye dominance is an important consideration for monovision correction to reduce the need for reading glasses or bifocals. Anyone who is presbyopic should consider monovision.

What most of us don’t realize is that when we make eye contact with another person — in person — we don’t make eyes contact, we only make a singular “eye” contact.  We cannot look at both eyes of a person at the same time.  We can only look at one of their eyes at a time.  Perhaps unwittingly, that is how the phrase — “Look me in the eye!” — came into being.

When you look at another person’s eye, and most of us always pick the same one eye of the other person, several things are in play.  The person you are looking at has no idea you’re only looking at their one eye, because they’re only capable of looking at one of your eyes, too.

As well, our “one eye” focus is so intense, you tend to miss unique features in the other eye of the person.  For example, one of my childhood teachers had a blind eye, and I had no idea it was damaged until one of the other students in class pointed it out.  I’d always focused on her “good eye” when speaking to her and I never noticed the blind eye.  My perception of her changed just a little when I learned about the existence of her “other, non-eye”– and I have since learned that if we pick a “bad eye” in another person, we have a hard time switching to focus on the other that that we rarely, if ever, focus on seeing. If both eyes are damaged, we tend to look away from the eyes and focus on the mouth.

I was reminded of this monovision the other day when I was flirting with my wife on Valentine’s Day, and I kept winking at her.  She was not responding.  I winked some more.  No response.  When I asked her why she wasn’t winking back, she told me I wasn’t winking.  When I winked with my other eye, she responded with a silly smile.  When I immediately winked with my other eye, she didn’t catch it.

It’s fascinating how our physiology forces us to become “One Eye Blind” when we are up close and personal and, in many ways, we’re missing half the message by focusing on only one eye and entirely missing the winking.

16 comments

  • I kinda hate to admit this, but here’s a dirty little trick I learned years ago in business. It really works!

    If you need to subtly intimidate someone, for example throw a business competitor off balance or unsettle a debate opponent, always look them in the non-dominant eye. This works best if you maintain an otherwise completely normal and pleasant demeanour. But you’ve gotta stay focused on that non-dominant eye.

    It’s amazing how well this works, and sometimes any tiny advantage can be valuable.

    There. I’ve given away one of my best business secrets. Thankfully this is the internet and I don’t have to look you eye-to-eye!

    • Now that sounds like an effective business strategy, but how do you know which of their eyes is the dominant one? How do they sense you’re challenging your dominant eye if they’re only looking at one of your eyes?

  • Once you’re aware of dominant/sub-ordinante eyes, it’s easy to tell almost immediately upon meeting someone which eye they favour. Just think about this when you have your next few face-to-face conversations and in a week, you’ll be an expert. The other persons’ experience of your slightly “strange” behaviour will be a vague sense of unease: “I think I like David… but there’s something… a little scary.” Ha! Obviously this isn’t something you want to be going around doing all the time, unless you’re a sociopath! And DO NOT try it next time you go through airport security. ;^)

    • Okay! I’ll covertly experiment with this — starting tonight on my wife for sure! SMILE! It’s interesting how our dominant eye doesn’t always mean we’ll focus on the dominant eye on the other person. It’s all about the “picking one” that gets engrained in us early on, and we have a hard time making the switch on an everyday basis.

  • There was a great scene in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” in which Steve Carrell’s character is instructed to check out women but to only look at them peripherally. I sometimes will look at my wife peripherally and, when she asks why I am not looking at her, I tell her that I am.

    I like the idea of the expression ‘Look me in the eye’ coming from the dominant eye notion! :)

  • Ha! Now that’s wacky! SMILE!

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  • This is really interesting. Since I have a lazy left eye I always just assumed I was the only one that was looking at ONE eye of the person I was talking to. LOL. Whenever I go to the eye doctor, which I admit isn’t as often as it should be, they always look at me like I’m a freak. I forget the term they use but basically I only EVER look out of one eye at a time. I can feel it too so I know I’m doing it and nothing seems to help or make me look with both at the same time. You know those tests they give you where you have to tell them what number the arrow is pointing to? Yeah, since I don’t see with both eyes together at the same time I can only see either just the arrow and NO numbers…. and in this case the arrow is always exactly to the left, right, or smack dab in the middle OR I can only see the numbers with NO arrow. When I was little they’d get REALLY mad at me because I would say I couldn’t see one or the other… so I started making it up! But I ALWAYS said either the first, middle, or last number since the arrow never pointed anywhere else when I did see it. I guess that’s when my HATRED of going to the eye doctor’s began. I was tired of arguing with them… who do the techs that do the tests really think they are anyways!? I always would tell the doctor how the test went though. Anyhow… as an adult it’s no better. They argue with me and tell me to step away and blink repeatedly and try again… as if by some magic I will finally see correctly!? I need to find a GOOD doctor…. I wish they had a 1-800-Dentist number for EYE DOCTOR referrals. LOL. Anyhow… great read. Thanks for sharing.

  • I was reading the insights posted on the webpage and didn’t really get the answer I was looking for. Maybe I did read it but didn’t understand it fully. My issue is I recently have noticed that when I look at someone, I always look at their left eye first. Now that really isn’t the issue. The issue is, when I look at their left eye I don’t feel like they are looking at MY eyes. However, when I switch to their right eye I suddenly ‘see’ them looking into my eyes! So basically all long they have been giving me eye contact but I only notice the eye contact when I look into their right eye. This has puzzled me a LOT and I would really like an explanation for this. THANKS!

  • A second issue of mine: recently as well, I noticed myself staring blankly into ‘space’ and completely loosing focus of the thing or area I am staring at. When this is happening I find myself in a ‘thinking mode’ or day dreaming or the sorts. Is this normal at all?

  • David, as this is 6/22/2012 I dont know if you will get this. I have had alot of conditions that I thought were bad, but were normal all along. I didnt know we only look at each other with one eye. This whole time i have been training my self to look at them in the eyes lol, boy I bet I freaked out alot of people lolololol. I have been blessed to know a Physical Therapist. A healthy diet of veggys and fruits and less read meat will do the body wonders.

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