Cognitive Daily reviews “a new cognitive psychology article nearly every day”. On Nov. 8, they reviewed an article about gaze & face-to-face conversation. They ask “… do we look away because we’re self-conscious, or because it helps us concentrate?”
CD reports that Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon and Fiona Phelps have devised a study with 8-year-olds to attempt to answer the question. They asked the kids questions of varying levels of difficulty either in person or by videotape and measured when / if they looked away. Their research shows that we look away both because of self-consciousness at physical proximity and that looking away helps us concentrate.
For more, check out
Doherty-Sneddon, G., & Phelps, F.G. (2005). Gaze aversion: A response to cognitive or social difficulty? Memory & Cognition, 33(4), 727-733.