People on Tumblr were talking about “faking” eye contact by looking at another part of the person’s face– the bridge of their nose, or their mouth, or their forehead– and it reminded me of something I used to think when I was a teenager.
I don’t remember why it came up, but I remember being kind of dubious about the whole concept of eye contact. The point of confusion was, how could anybody claim to be focusing their eyes on such a tiny specific spot in their field of view? How do you tell the difference between looking at someone’s eye versus their nose? They’re so close together, the difference in where your eye is pointing is really negligible.
That was my line of thought when I was 13 or so.
I think I’m slightly less eye-contact-agnostic than I used to be. Maybe I’m better at focusing my attention on a small spot and blocking out everything else? Maybe I’m more aware of small movements of my eyes? Maybe my frame of reference for “making eye contact” has just changed from teachers at the front of classrooms to people sitting on the couch with me, so their eyes are a bigger target? I’m not sure. But eye contact as a specific and obviously identifiable experience makes more sense to me now.
But I do think that the part of your field of vision you’re most specifically “looking at” or focusing on is partly cognitive, not physical. You can move your mental focus without moving your eyes. Or I can.