The dating world is tough; we constantly ask ourselves whether a potential love interest is into us or not. There are nonverbal cues that can tell us whether we're meant to be friends or lovers, without exchanging any words. According to a recent study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, eye movement can be a subconscious sign of attraction.

Using an eye-tracking device, researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas found men and women who expressed romantic interest tend to stare at the head or chest for longer and more often. Meanwhile, when they consider someone just a friend, they stare at the legs or feet more often. In men, they’re more likely to stare at a woman's chest and waist/hip region, independent of whether they saw them as a friend or potential partner.

Read More: Our Eyes Instantly Differentiate Between Sexual, Romantic Attraction When Seeing Strangers

This is in line with what previous research has found when it comes to men’s “ideal” preferences for the female body. Men tend to prefer women with small waists and big hips, which are signals of youth and fertility. Therefore, men subconsciously stare at a woman’s chest and waist/hip region, whether it’s a potential friend or lover, because they’ve evolved to seek these features in the opposite sex.

Angela Bahns, the study's coauthor and an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley, suggests eye movement can be telling of a person’s initial intent upon meeting someone.

"This new study shows that what people look for in a prospective relationship partner depends on their relational goal," she said, in a statement.

In other words, someone who makes a highly desirable friend may not make a good romantic partner. The way a person gazes at a person's body can signify their initial intent upon meeting them. If the stranger appeals to them romantically, they will look hold eye contact differently than with someone who they like platonically.

In the two-part study, Bahns and her colleagues tracked the eye movements of 105 heterosexual undergraduates — 36 men, 69 women — as they were shown photos of strangers while answering questions about their interest in becoming friends or lovers. First, the participants were asked to look at photos of both men and women and decide which of them they viewed as a potential friend. Then, the participants were asked to look at another set of images, including five members of the opposite sex from the first set, and five new images of the opposite sex, to evaluate which of them could be a potential love interest.

Similarly to women who stared at the head and chest to show romantic interest, men who looked longer and more often at the head were less interested in a platonic relationship. This suggests men look at faces with a critical gaze. Single women who just looked at the head longer and often were especially interested in friendship, while legs and feet were less observed.

Yet, if someone you find attractive is looking at your feet, it's not definitive they're dismissing you.

Read More: From Eye Contact To The Genes Behind 'Love At First Sight'

Other research on nonverbal cues of attraction suggest a woman's feet can reveal whether she's romantically interested. Professor Geoff Beattie, a Dean of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester, partnered up with men’s footwear brand Jeffery West to examine how people move their feet in response to different situations. Based on their research, they found a woman is attracted to a man by moving her feet away from her body to adopt a more open-legged stance when laughing, but if they cross their legs or keep them tucked beneath their boy, she does not see him as romantic potential.

These studies do not hold the final word on beauty and attraction. After all, analyzing attraction is difficult because it's often not representative of the general population. Men and women may choose to look at other body parts, because that's what they find attractive — it's not always indicative of whether they see you as a potential friend or lover.

There are nonverbal behavioral cues that can reveal romantic attraction, but this is subject to change based on our personal preferences.

Source: Gillath O, Bahns AJ, and Burghart HA. Eye Movements When Looking at Potential Friends and Romantic Partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2017.

See Also:

3 Easy-To-Read Body Language Signs To Display Attraction

How Blink Rate, Pupil Dilation Give Insight To Honesty And Attraction