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Eye Contact as Proof

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Look me in the eye and tell me you don't find me attractive
Look me in the heart and tell me you won't go
Look me in the eye and promise no love's like our love
Look me in the heart and un-break broken, it won't happen
Tegan & Sara, "Where Does the Good Go"

Figuring out someone else's true feelings can be difficult, especially if their words completely contradict their actions. One way to learn the truth is to invoke Eyes Never Lie. Namely, demand that the person look you in the eyes and state with no equivocation that they feel a certain way about the issue. Having to look someone else in the eyes will force the person to truly consider how they feel since eyes are the windows of the soul. In most situations, the person will refuse to repeat the statement and instead admit their true feelings. This is especially evoked when someone is trying to force a Love Confession. Bob will demand Alice look him in the eyes and tell him she doesn't love him. Alice will likely break down and admit that she can't bring herself to deny what is truly in their heart.

This is both invoking and inverting Eyes Never Lie: invoked because one person is using this trope to learn or reveal the truth, and inverting because looking someone in the eyes reveals one's own truth rather than the other person's. This trope is more likely to appear in Western media, where eye contact is considered to be a sign of respect and trustworthiness. In other contexts, long-term eye contact can be considered aggressive and disrespectful.

Subtrope of Eye Tropes and Truth and Lies. Contrast with Eyes Always Averted. Compare with Anguished Declaration of Love when used to force a Love Confession.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • At the start of Death Note's Yotsuba Arc, Light creates a Memory Gambit for himself in which he strategically forfeits the notebook at just the right moment to cast suspicion off himself as being Kira, because once you forfeit ownership, you lose all memories associated with everything you did while you had it. He instantly reverts back to the person he was before he found it and becomes earnest, well-meaning, and completely dedicated to finding Kira, without knowing that it's been him all along. He panics and tried to convince L to let him out of the solitary confinement that he volunteered to be put into and not released from, no matter what he says, but L isn't convinced. Light insists that he made a mistake asking to be locked up and that they're wasting time, and tells L to look in his eyes if he thinks he's lying. L is unnerved by not only the fact that Light's completely changed his attitude on a dime, but that he genuinely seems to be telling the truth.

    Fan Works 
  • Calm and Chaos: Lucy pulls up her bangs and makes Lincoln look her in the eye to make him swear he'll talk with Logan about his mother.
  • Simple Gifts: Watson doesn't look Holmes in the eye when he answers a question about why he thinks he's bad company for Christmas, which the detective notes means he's trying to evade answering too directly. He also stuffs a spoonful of potato in his mouth, which unfortunately costs him control of his stomach.

    Films — Animated 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy: Arlo has confronted Ansel at the Met Gala and begins singing to him that he feels alone and demands the truth that he's his dad; he then asks Ansel to look into his eyes and tell him that.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint's father is very worried about the effects of the food machine and demands his son look him in the eyes and tell him that he's got this under control and that it's not going to end in disaster. His father even lifts his bushy eyebrows and reveals his own eyes, so his son can look him in the eye. A clearly unsure Flint comically struggles for a long time to get his eyeballs to both look directly into his father's eyes. When he finally does, he gets them into position just long enough to very quickly say, "I'vegotthisundercontrol.It'snotgonnanendindisaster." His father reluctantly accepts his word.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas: After the Book of Peace is stolen, Sinbad is imprisoned on suspicion of having taken it. When his former friend Proteus confronts Sinbad on whether he took it, Sinbad looks him straight in the eye and says no. This is enough to convince Proteus of Sinbad's innocence, and he takes the pirate’s sentence in his stead while Sinbad is ordered to retrieve the Book.
  • In The Smurfs 2, Patrick's stepfather Victor turns into a duck because Gargamel the wizard accidentally zapped him. When Patrick insults Victor, he says, "Look me in the eye and say that." Patrick replies, "I can't." Victor says, "See? Because it's not true!" and Patrick says, "No, I can't because your eyes are on the sides of your head!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In First Knight, Lancelot tells Guinevere he'll leave Camelot if she tells him she doesn't love him. Guinevere looks away from him (until then she was looking him in the eye) and tells him she doesn't love him. When she finally does make eye contact again, she looks as though she is about to cry and walks away. Lancelot doesn't leave.
  • Defied in Good Will Hunting, when Skylar asks Will to move to California with her. When Will refuses, Skylar demands he look her in the eyes and tell her he doesn't love her, and if he does she will break up with him. Though Will is in love with her, he looks her directly in the eyes, tells her he doesn't love her, and leaves. Skylar is left in tears.
  • Judge Dredd (1995). Dredd has been arrested for murder with all the evidence against him. His mentor Chief Justice Fargo goes to see him to ask if he did it. The only thing Dredd does is ask (repeatedly) if Fargo believes the accusation. In the end, Fargo says, "I just wanted to see it in your eyes."

  • In Requiem for an Assassin, John Rain insists on a personal meeting with the man holding his friend hostage, saying he wants to look in his eyes and see if he's telling the truth about You Said You Would Let Them Go. His actual reason is to gather intelligence on his opponent, as well as assessing him personally.
    “Are you satisfied?” Hilger asked, as though reading my thoughts. [snip] “With having looked in my eyes. Trusting me to let Dox go when this is done.”
    “No. I don’t trust you to do that. But I learned something else from your eyes.”
    “Yeah? What’s that?”
    From his tone, I knew he was concerned that I might have picked up some piece of information he didn’t want me to have. Why else would I have insisted on a meeting? Trusting someone because of what you see in his eyes is a load of shit, although the latest bozo in the White House claimed to have managed a view of Vladimir Putin’s soul that way. And it was clear after what happened in Góc Saigon that I wasn’t going to kill him. What else could I have been after, if not information?
    I took a deep breath, then let it go. “I learned I don’t have a choice.”

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY:
    • During Danny's brief stint as a Sergeant, an incident involving one of his trainees makes it look like Danny is covering up a crime. Lindsay confronts the trainee by saying "Look me in the eye and tell me Danny Messer told you to lie." The trainee can't do either and ends up recanting to Internal Affairs. Although Danny's job is saved, he goes back to the Lab where he knows he can trust everyone.
    • During Mac's speech aphasia arc, while he's not telling anyone about his memory problems, Christine becomes suspicious and asks him to look her in the eye and tell her nothing's wrong. He can't, and doesn't, so she gives him the silent treatment for a couple of weeks until he fesses up.
  • On Fear the Walking Dead, Morgan tells John to look him in the eye and tell him whether he really believes killing is the only way to survive the post-Zombie Apocalypse world. John says he doesn't...or at least, he hopes he doesn't really believe that.
  • On Felicity, Sean tells Ben to look him in the eyes and say, "If I knew Felicity loved me, I wouldn't freak out." Ben refuses to say this, which Sean uses as evidence that Ben needs to break up with Felicity.
  • In the third season of Friends, Chandler is dating Janice, a woman he has dumped three times in a year. Eventually they get back together and Chandler seems happy. Too bad she really annoys Joey, who just wants to know when Chandler is breaking up with her. When Chandler insists this time he's going the distance with Janice, Joey isn't buying it.
    Joey: Okay. All right. You look me in the eye and tell me, without blinking, that you're not breaking up with her. No blinking.
    Chandler: (looks him in the eye) I'm not breaking up with her! (They stare at each other for a while, then Joey blows in his face.)
  • In the "Just Say No Way" episode of Full House , DJ is in tears after her Uncle Jesse mistakenly thinks he's caught her drinking beer, and her father and Joey don't believe her denials. Even though her sister Stephanie doesn't know what's going on, she instantly believes her when she says "I didn't do anything wrong". Because "You looked me right in the eye. When you lie, you look at the top of my head."
    • On a funnier note, Danny and Joey are feebly trying to come up with excuses as to why Jesse is late for his and Becky's wedding, which she immediately sees through —"Then why won't you look me in the eye?!", not that their fumbling demeanor helps any.
  • A variant on Gilmore Girls. In season 4, Jess impulsively asks Rory to run away with him, a year after skipping town. He makes an Anguished Declaration of Love, but she doesn't trust him anymore and rejects him. He keeps trying to convince her, even going as far as to say it was Love at First Sight for him and he knows it was for her, too, but she keeps repeating "no." She can't look at him, though, looking anywhere but at his face while he speaks. Eventually, he tells her to only say "no" if she really doesn't want to be with him, at which point she brings herself to look in his eyes and tell him "no," which finally convinces him. He looks stricken, but leaves.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall was mugged, but after Lily buys a gun he claims a monkey stole his money, in order to make her change her mind. Ted, who prides himself of being able to tell if Marshall tells the truth by looking him in the eye, has trouble finding out, and instead he distracts with the smell of his new perfume.
  • One Life to Live:
    • Maggie Carpenter accuses Asa Buchanan of starting a fire at the building she just purchased to start an art school in order to have it for himself. Asa vehemently—and truthfully—denies it. Maggie doesn't believe him, but his on-again, off-again wife Renee asks her if he looked her directly in the eye when he said it. When Maggie admits that he did, Renee adamantly declares that Asa was telling the truth.
    • When Viki Buchanan asks her son Kevin where he was when Carlo Hesser was murdered, he turns away from her when telling her. Despite his attempts at making his actions look casual, Viki still realizes he's deliberately trying to avoid looking her in the eye. (He is not the killer, but he is being deceitful, as he doesn't want her to know he was with a married woman.)
  • Subverted in an episode of Raising Hope. Burt goes to an underground gambling parlor (really an elementary school gym class) and is wary about the gym-teacher-cum-bookie being an undercover cop. Meanwhile, the gym teacher thinks Burt might be one too. They decide to take off their sunglasses and look in each other's eyes for proof. However, neither of them is entirely sure how eye contact proves anything, so they give up and just start gambling.
  • Side Hustle: Nedward always does this to whoever he gives motivation to.
  • Stargate SG-1: Teal'c was brainwashed by Apophis, leading him to believe he was still loyal to Apophis. After Apophis was killed and Teal'c is supposedly "cured" of the brainwashing, he claims that he is back to normal. Bra'tac approaches and looks Teal'c in the eyes, detecting that the brainwashing was still in effect.

  • The bridge of "Where Does the Good Go" by Tegan & Sara is a series of demands of "look me in the eye" and "look me in the heart" and then make a denial or statement of love.
  • In "Are You Happy Now?" by Michelle Branch, she asks her ex to look her in the eye and tell her whether s/he is happy now.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Pokey Mom", Marge asks Jack to look her in the eye and say he didn't set the mural on fire. He does, and very convincingly too — but she later finds out he actually did do it.
    • In "Go Big or Go Homer", Marge tells Homer to shake off Mike Wegman because of his tendency to unload on anyone who disparages his idol, but Homer is reluctant to because he's the only one who respects him. When Marge insists that she and the kids respect him, Homer tells her to look him in the eyes and tell him she does. All she can let out is a nervous laugh, and her pupils go cross.

    Real Life 
  • Psychoanalysts believe that you can tell if someone is lying if they touch their face when talking to you, as this is a means of avoiding eye contact without explicitly looking away from you.
  • This trope is most likely to appear in Western contexts, where eye contact is a cultural norm, and refusing to do so is a sign of untrustworthiness. In some Eastern contexts, this is the reverse. This psychological study of Japanese and Finnish participants finds that Japanese participants found pictures of people with a direct gaze to be more aggressive and unapproachable than the Finnish participants.
  • This can also be problematic for shy/anxious people (or simply people that are currently feeling nervous) because it is rather difficult for one to look another in the eyes when you're nervous. As a result, even if someone is being honest they might be mistaken for lying because they are averting their eyes out of anxiety.
    • Similarly, some autistic people have difficulty with direct eye contact. They can be accused of lying or disinterest/not paying attention when they are actually being honest and can focus better when not forced to make eye contact.
  • This can also be inverted by people who feel that those who are doing this are trying too hard to convince you that they're telling the truth when they're in fact lying.
    • Prince Harry refers to this in his memoir Spare when describing an argument he and his brother William had after their grandfather's funeral, in which William outright grabbed him by the collar note  and "forced me to look into his eyes" while he made an Anguished Declaration of Love and insisted that he felt awful about the deterioration of their relationship and that despite everything, he wanted him to be happy. But despite this, Harry bluntly declared, "I don't believe you".


Video Example(s):


Terms of surrender

Shawn's bluff that there's police waiting is sold by Ryan using eye contact as proof of telling the truth.

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