Eli5 How do animals know to make eye contact?


Maybe not all animals but most mamals at least. Does it imply the awareness that they see from their eyes and can identify them on other animals? Is it something instinctual?

In: Biology

They are watching your moves. eyes can indicate intention and they seem to be aware of ever present danger or just the intent thing

In my experience most animals *don’t* care about eye contact. Even most mammals – you look them in the eye and there’s just nothing there. If they do, it’s because they simply don’t like being looked at. Being looked at usually either means they’re being hunted or otherwise threatened.

Humans specifically communicate a ton of information through our faces and especially eyes – that’s why we have white sclera and eyebrows, to make our eyes more visually communicative. Some great apes use eye contact to communicate aggression, but even they’re not quite as dependent on eye-to-eye communication as humans.

It differs a lot per animal. But for most animals eye contact is indeed a sign of awareness, a means to communicate, and a means of receiving communication from the other animal’s eyes.

Cats are a perfect example for this. They create eye contact and have their eyes half-shut, or blink very slowly. This is their way of showing you they are relaxed, at ease, and are not looking for a fight. Likewise, a lack of eye contact is also telling. For example, if they look to the side while walking towards you, it also means that despite them moving in your direction, they’re also not perceiving you as a threat, and are likely curious or just want to pass by without causing any trouble. However, if a cat does stare at you with wide open eyes, it usually means they are affraid. They are focussing on you because they perceive you to be the biggest threat.

The reason why animals know this, is because evolution simply made them very good at it. Being able to tell a creatures intention by looking at it, and being able to communicate your own intention is extremely benificial for a species to know how to do. So the ones that learned it survived, and their offspring got even better at it.