Look Away, Baby Look Away
In general, does averting eye contact mean kids are being disrespectful or uninterested? The answer is no. In fact, scientists believe that a child looking away is simply using their noggin in order to process complex information.
Psychogists have known for years that adults will look away 85% of the time when asked a tough question. Kids under 5 do it 40% of the time. (For cool information on how adults look away relating to what kind of information they're recalling - or totally making up - read THIS).
Here's how researchers conducted their study:
Researchers took 20 five-year old kids and trained 10 of them to look away when trying to come up with an answer. The other 10 kids were the control group and got no such training. No training fo' you!!! Then they asked all 20 kids various verbal and math questions of varying difficulty.
The "look away" kids averaged 72% correct answers on the verbal quiz.
The control group only got 55% right. They also were severely beaten afterwards for failing. Just kidding.
"The difference between groups was especially evident on the difficult questions where the [averted gaze] group got on average 60.9 percent correct while the [untrained] kids got only 36.7 percent," psychologist Doherty-Sneddon said.
Why did the averted gaze kids do so much better?
Scientists believe it's because humans find it difficult to chew gum and walk at the same time. Ok, not literally, but sorta. We find the human face captivating, and so eye contact is actually quite distracting. Our brains are unable to go through complex processes while looking at someone's face.
A study published in Neuroscience last summer showed how the human brain has a tough time simultaneously looking and listening. Is that really surprising, though? Just look at all the morons driving around while talking on their cell phones.
So instead of accosting a kid for looking away when asked a question, maybe teachers should give the child enough time to think of the right answer and actually avoid eye contact. Especially if the teacher has a creepy glass eye.