I was reading this seduction coach's blog: "Your Amygdala Doesn't Want You to Find Love." She references the book Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?" by Seth Godin, writing:
Halfway through the book is a chapter entitled The Resistance. The Resistance is Godin's name for your amygdala, also known as the lizard brain. It's not just a concept, it's a real organ -- it's a couple of squishy things sitting atop your spine. Millions of years ago, your lizard brain was responsible for your survival -- it told you to be afraid of predators, to keep a low profile, to eat when you needed sustenance, to ensure your safety at all costs. Back then, it was useful. Today, it still does those things, but it's utterly antiquated, because our social evolution happens far faster than our physical and neurological evolution. Biologically, we are still programmed to operate as though we are living in a 100-person tribe with lots of sabertooth tigers hiding in the bushes, even though that's not even remotely what our world looks like today.
In the working world, the contributions of our lizard brain manifest themselves in a desire to play it safe, to hide at our desks, to do whatever it takes not to attract the attention of our superiors (the amygdala hates attention, as attention is a threat to safety).
And specifically about eye contact:
[L]et's remember that the amygdala is even afraid of eye contact that gets too intense. Godin describes a zoo in Rotterdam that gives out special glasses to visitors so that the gorillas won't think they're being looked in the eye and freak out. Considering that intense eye contact is one of the defining characteristics of a romantic relationship (in fact, psychologist Arthur Arun describes it as perhaps one of only a few prerequisites for love -- full article here), it's easy to see why we get the impulse to run away. "The amygdala resists looking people in the eye, because doing so is threatening and exposes it to risk," Godin writes. "Eye contact, all by itself, is enough to throw your lizard brain into a tizzy. Imagine how scary it must be to set out to do something that will get you noticed, or perhaps even criticized."
It's scary, but there is something about fear that is so compelling! BBC Science discusses interesting research on the effect of eye contact on people's perception of intimacy:
New York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying the dynamics of what happens when people fall in love. He has shown that the simple act of staring into each other's eyes has a powerful impact.
He asked two complete strangers to reveal to each other intimate details about their lives. This carried on for an hour and a half. The two strangers were then made to stare into each others eyes without talking for four minutes. Afterwards many of his couples confessed to feeling deeply attracted to their opposite number and two of his subjects even married afterwards.
I believe that sustained eye contact is one of those seduction tricks that is so effective that almost every sociopath seems to use it. I believe that it is so common, in fact, that it is what people are referencing when they make comments about a sociopath's "lizard stare" or ant other observations or judgments related to a sociopath's eyes.