mudcat.org: Looking People In The Eyes
Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeawe

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Looking People In The Eyes

Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 10:38 AM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 10:48 AM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 10:57 AM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 11:07 AM
GUEST,Shaneo not logged in 28 Sep 08 - 11:13 AM
maeve 28 Sep 08 - 11:20 AM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 11:25 AM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Sep 08 - 06:19 PM
maeve 28 Sep 08 - 06:28 PM
Stringsinger 28 Sep 08 - 06:37 PM
Alan Day 28 Sep 08 - 06:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Sep 08 - 06:58 PM
Rowan 28 Sep 08 - 07:27 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Sep 08 - 08:59 PM
kendall 28 Sep 08 - 09:09 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Sep 08 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Sep 08 - 10:00 PM
Bert 28 Sep 08 - 10:24 PM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 10:36 PM
kendall 28 Sep 08 - 10:55 PM
mg 28 Sep 08 - 11:29 PM
Rowan 28 Sep 08 - 11:40 PM
GUEST,number 6 28 Sep 08 - 11:51 PM
Azizi 28 Sep 08 - 11:56 PM
katlaughing 29 Sep 08 - 12:20 AM
frogprince 29 Sep 08 - 12:40 AM
frogprince 29 Sep 08 - 12:43 AM
Bert 29 Sep 08 - 12:51 AM
dick greenhaus 29 Sep 08 - 05:33 PM
Rowan 29 Sep 08 - 06:52 PM
Azizi 29 Sep 08 - 08:05 PM
Azizi 29 Sep 08 - 08:16 PM
Monique 30 Sep 08 - 04:22 AM
Azizi 30 Sep 08 - 08:31 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Sep 08 - 11:37 AM
Becca72 30 Sep 08 - 11:42 AM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Oct 08 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler 02 Oct 08 - 07:59 AM
Azizi 02 Oct 08 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Neil D 02 Oct 08 - 03:25 PM
Azizi 02 Oct 08 - 04:40 PM
Neil D 02 Oct 08 - 07:24 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:






Subject: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:38 AM

The purpose of this thread is to discuss the cultural implications of looking people in the eyes and avoiding eye contact.

While the impetus for this thread was the September 26, 2008 Presidential debate in which it has been widely noted that Republican Senator John McCain did not make eye contact with Democatic Senator Barack Obama, I've have chosen to post this thread above the line because I'd like this discussion to go beyond political examples.

Although I'll start this thread by posting examples of online comments about the first 2008 Presidential Debate, I will also post some information that I have found online on this subject, and then will add my own comments about this subject.

I hope that Mudcat members and Mudcat guests will engage in a
non-contentious, respectful wide ranging discussion about the cultural implications in the USA and elsewhere of looking a person in the eyes or avoiding eye contact.

Thanks, in advance, for your participation in this discussion.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:48 AM

Here are four comments about the September 26, 2008 USA Presidential debate from http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Salter_McCain_was_respectful.html#comments :


"Failure to make eye-contact is a sign of fear or cowardice or contempt - all bad things in a leader. Its a fact - McCain would not look Obama in the eye. Do you hire someone for a job if they won't look you in the eye? What about the person who will talk down to someone without even looking at them? Who knows why McCain did it - but the fact is, it made him look like a bitter, contemptuous old man."
-Posted By: | September 27, 2008 at 03:21 PM      

**

"McCain was very rude and would not get hired if were interviewing for a job. Eye contact and respect while someone else is speaking is basic manners 101. McCain gets an F."
-Posted By: | September 27, 2008 at 03:52 PM      

**

"As a prior McCain supporter, I msut say I was apalled and dismayed at how this once respectful man could be so condescending and rude. How can he explain standing there for 90 minutes and refusing to acknowledge his opponent. He never once looked at him, not even when Obama directly addressed him. If I ever had any respect left for him I lost it last night. -- Regardless on who won the debate on talking points, McCain LOST BIG in character!!!!!"
-Posted By: LCF | September 27, 2008 at 07:29 PM      

**

"I as many found McCain to be actually condescending more than anything. He would not make eye contact and if anyone pays good attention he very rarely makes eye contact with any one. I have been taught by my grandfather who is in McCains age bracket that a man looking you in the eyes is respect and shows they aren't lying. I believe the body language and sneering as Obama spoke, gave a vibe of a ****ed of teenager. When a man (Obama) can give you credit to your work and when you're right (McCain) and you can still barely acknowledge his existence; that speaks of you as a person and your manners"...
-Posted By: Independant Voter | September 27, 2008 at 07:58 PM

-snip-

Also, John McCain's failure to make eye contact with Barack Obama became part of a September 27, 2008 Saturday Night Life sketch.         

"[Tina] Fey wasn't the only former cast member who returned Saturday night. Chris Parnell came back to play presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer in a sketch that parodied Friday night's contest between McCain and Democratic rival Barack Obama — which occurred less than 27 hours earlier than the live "SNL" broadcast.

The sketch mainly played up McCain's attempts to shake up the debate process, as Darrell Hammond's McCain urged his opponent to join him in "nude or seminude" town hall meetings.

At the outset, Parnell announced: "Throughout the debate, I will urge you both to look at one another up to and beyond the point it becomes uncomfortable."
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080928/ap_en_tv/tv_snl


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:57 AM

Although most persons in Western cultures have been taught to consider direct eye contact to be positive, other cultures may consider it to be rude.

For example, read this excerpt from an online book review of "Cultural Intelligence" by Brooks Peterson:

From the earliest age, Americans are taught to "say what we mean and mean what we say". As children, we are taught to speak up in class, to look people in the eye to show that we are honest, and to present our views clearly. We are taught to be strong and to disagree verbally and nonverbally when we need to. To people in many non-Western cultures, direct eye contact is not a good thing but rather conveys a threat or a challenge, and it is more important to maintain a sense of harmony or balance than to deal directly with issues, especially issues where there may be conflict.
http://books.google.com/books?id=-84MKmO-xi0C&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=looking+people+in+the+eye+in+non-western+cultures&source=web&o

-snip-

Here's an excerpt from an online page in which an executive provides advice for his staff who are traveling and working in non-Western nations:

Eye Contact and touching
Western cultures — Westerners see direct eye to eye contact as positive.

Arabic cultures make prolonged eye-contact. — They believe it shows interest and helps them understand truthfulness of the other person. (A person who doesn't reciprocate is seen as untrustworthy)

Avoid eye contact to show respect - In Japan, Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean
http://www.dba-oracle.com/consultant_religon_culture_guidelines.htm
Consulting Tips for Foreign cultures and religions-Don Burleson


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:07 AM

Here is an excerpt from a google review of the 2004 book
"A Strange World: Autism, Asperger's Syndrome" written by Martine F. Delfos & Tony Attwood. A portion of this book includes advice from a person with Asperger's Syndrome about how to make and maintain eye contact. But I'd like to focus on the portion of the online review that provides what I consider to be a very interesting theory about why some cultures expect people to make direct eye contact or frown upon that practice.

"[In Morocco] It is a sign of a lack of respect if a child looks into an adult's eyes during a conversation. In this situation, eye contact is not appreciated. In contrast, in Western cultures, eye contact is appreciated and a lack of it is often construed as a sign of anxiety, evasion, or lack of interest. Making or not making eye contact is therefore not without ambiguity.

This cultural difference may well be connected with the value assigned to respect and honesty. Respect is highly valued in non-Western cultures. In upbringing, for instance, authority is based on the child's respect for the parents. Reading emotions in the eyes would perhaps affect respect. In most non-Western cultures, automatic respect, plays an important part. In the Western cultures, this automatic respect has largely been lost and respect is something that has to be earned. This makes it less necessary to lower the eyes. Looking at someone in the eyes is, in fact, conducive to examining whether respect is merited; the eyes are examined, among other things, for sincerity.

Eye contact demands concentration and therefore may be interrupted in order to enhance concentration. However, it may also be avoided in order to prevent the other person from seeing something in one's eyes, or avoid seeing something in the other person's eyes".

[This online review continues with some advice from a person with Asperger's Syndrome about giving and maintaining eye contact]

http://books.google.com/books?id=EEu0gHhFftEC&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=looking+people+in+the+eye+in+non-western+cultures&source=web


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,Shaneo not logged in
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:13 AM

Seems like there's no escaping this political bull shite, it's now above the line


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: maeve
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:20 AM

Also, you might consider the culturally appropriate eye-contact avoidance of many Native American groups, Azizi.

When I lived in Italy, I observed and followed the Italian women's practice of avoiding eye-contact with unknown men in public. I was free to venture everywhere I wished without the unwelcome attentions and harassment experienced by my roommates. I was treated with kindness and respect by the men I encountered during my time living in Florence and while travelling throughout Italy.

As I think about the subject as you have proposed it, I am also aware that when I am angry with someone (a rare ocurrance) I avoid eye-contact with that person until I have resolved the anger and can discuss the problem with him or her.

Finally, when I am feeling shy, I find myself avoiding eye-contact as assiduously as a wild creature.

There can be many reasons a person might consciously or unconsciously avoid prolonged eye-contact.

maeve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:25 AM

In most non-Western cultures, automatic respect plays an important part. In the Western cultures, this automatic respect has largely been lost and respect is something that has to be earned. This makes it less necessary to lower the eyes. Looking at someone in the eyes is, in fact, conducive to examining whether respect is merited; the eyes are examined, among other things, for sincerity."
-Martine F. Delfos & Tony Attwood

I have read elsewhere that one difficulty that some African American children have in school is that they don't look their teachers in the eye when the teachers are talking to them or reprimanding them. The teachers consider this to be rude and a sign of evasion, but the children are following the rules of etiquette that they have learned at home-that it's impolite to look into the eyes of their elders.

I've also read that not looking your "betters" in the eye was [is?] a key part of the White/non-White dynamics in the USA.

I emphasized the word "some" in my comment about African Americans children being taught to hold their head down and not look directly at adults during conversations, because I'm African American and wasn't taught that. Nor, do I believe, were other African Americans I knew during my childhood in New Jersey in the 1950s. We were expected to adhere to the American custom of looking persons in the eye when talking to them-race didn't factor into this at all.

But I do believe that this was and probably still is a factor in the upbringing of some African Americans-and perhaps other folks who are non-White or who are White.

And I believe that that the actions of those people who have been taught to not look adults or "their betters" in the eye, are often misinterpreted by persons in authority, from teachers, principals, police officers as well as members of a jury.

I'd be interested to "hear" whether any Mudcat members and guests were taught not to look adults in the eye during a conversation.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:52 AM

Thanks for sharing your comments, maeve.

One summation of a google book review I found this morning in my brief Internet search alluded to the fact that Native American children are also to avoid eye contact with adults. However, besides that sentence, that passage of the book wasn't available in the online review.

I want to also mention that there has long been a widespread practice among many African Americans of making eye contact with other African Americans when you pass them on the street or see them elsewhere. Strangers nod their heads at other strangers, and/or briefly greet them by saying something like "Hello" or "How's things" or "Hey. How's it going". In doing so, I believe that we are acknowledging the other persons' existence, and verbally or non-verbally showing our recognition that we are "family" though we don't know each other. I also believe that this expectation that Black people greet other Black men or women that they see conveys the unspoken sense that in case of trouble, you could count on support from other people in your race, whether you really knew them or not.

Failure to adhere to this informally socialized practice was seen as a clear sign of rudeness. A Black person who didn't acknowledge another Black person's presence at least by a subtle nod of the head if not by a verbal greeting were said to have "iced" a person, or were said to have "cut" them or said to have looked through them. And when there are very few Black people in a particular setting and a Black person does not make eye contact with another Black person, that eye avoidance can be interpreted to mean much more than just rudeness.

That said, in my experience this custom of Black people greeting other Black people who are strangers when they are walking down the street appears to be much less often practiced among African American teens and adults under 40 years old. I blame the demise of this custom on the mistrust of others that is generated by gang violence and the "every man and woman for himself/herself" attitude that it seems to me prevails in most urban areas in the USA.

And I'm saddened by this custom's passing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 06:19 PM

I have a weak eye which tends to wander, and to minimize that, I tend to bow my head and listen intently to people. I despise people who stare me straight in the face for a long time.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: maeve
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 06:28 PM

And I have friends whose tremors or birthmarks make them feel vulnerable in a similar way, leeneia. Courteous communication would seem to revolve upon close observation of cultural requirements and/or body language, supported by an awareness of the impact of one's own body language, including eye-contact, body space, and so on in addition to effective and appropriate verbal skills.

maeve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 06:37 PM

Eye contact followed by a smile is often a sign of being comfortable with another person.

Eye contact while speaking means you mean what you say.

Lehrer brought this up at the debates. Clever move.

Evasive eyes, deception.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Alan Day
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 06:44 PM

Interesting subject,certainly shyness causes some people to avoid eye contact.I am normally put off by someone not looking at me when talking to me,it gives you the feeling of mistrust and insincerity.
There is a difference however when performing in public ,say on stage.You need maximum concentration,eye contact to a member of the audience to a person not listening to you,shaking his head,coughing etc., makes you lose this concentration.This makes the use of this argument in Political Discussion however a bit unfair, if this is the reason eye contact is not being made.
I would be interested in your reply to this point
Al


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 06:58 PM

Eye contact can be felt as threatening, or challenging. Hence the "Are you looking at me, mate?" reaction young men go in for in pubs, a frequent lead-in to a punch-up (or worse).

Of course failing to acknowledge another person's existence by ignoring them can also be felt as challenging and can lead to trouble as well. If someone is spoiling for a fight it's dodgy either way. A choice between what is liable to be seen as threatening if you make eye contact or dismissive if you don't.

I suspect in this debate it may have been a tactic optimistically designed to make Obama feel uncomfortable. Nothing personal about it, just a trick dreamed up by some whizkid in the control room. Which probably backfired, and if that's how it's seen, it'll be dropped.

To bring an above-the-line music related element into it, there's a question which has been raised from time to time about whether it's a good idea for a performer to look people in the eye when singing - which ties in to the question of singers who prefer to shut their eyes while singing. There seems to be a difference here between the British Isles and America, in folk circles anyway.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Rowan
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 07:27 PM

Stringsinger's comments appear to hold for those in the US with some British genes (cultural and biological) in their ancestry and, I suspect, would hold true for people with such ancestry elsewhere in the world. From Azizi's opening post I take it she's asking for confirmation and exemplification of situations where those mores might not apply; not all of us are particularly entranced by the minutiae of the US electoral process, however influential it may prove to be over our local situations.

Us Anglos (read "members of the dominant culture") tend to blunder through all sorts of situations without realising the existence of cultural niceties and our transgressions. Among traditional Aboriginal societies in Oz it is considered rude (at the very least and, possibly, seriously offensive) to attempt eye contact in many situations and the courts and gaols around the country have been overpopulated by indigenous people, partly because of the lack of cultural awareness or even deliberately overriding such awareness.

And I've often noticed that indigenous people show much more politeness and tolerance towards our transgressions than we do to theirs.

As a personal example, many years ago I was living in Jabiru assisting my spouse in an investigation of the components of bush tucker used by local Aboriginal groups. Like many non-indigenous people who are in frequent and fairly close contact with indigenous people who are still well connected to their traditions, we were each given a "skin name" by those elders who were most responsible for our conduct. Such skin names posited each of us securely into the fabric of traditional Aboriginal society, both at Kakadu and across the Top End.

One of my activities involved assisting a Contemporary Dance Theatre group in its visit to both Jabiru and Oenpelli, the latter being within Arnhem Land and about 50 miles from Jabiru. At Oenpelli the dancers were the centre of attention from all comers and there was a party at the local school to ensure everybody got to meet everybody. I was talking with one of the schoolteachers (a non-indigenous import, like myself, whom I'd not previously met) when we overheard one of the local lads discussing the concept of "cousins" with the dancers, about 6 yards away. I commented to the teacher about how he was trying to explain the relationships implied by skin names.

He heard me and immediately came over and, rather forthrightly, asked if I had a skin name. I replied that I had, and he asked, "What's your [skin] name?" When I told him he asked "Who give you that?" When I told him, his immediate response was to become extremely formal (whereas prior to our conversation he had been very laid back and friendly) and said "You my father!" Nothing could change his formality toward me thereafter.

Moreover, his manner gave me the impression that, by talking with the teacher (a woman who almost certainly had been given a skin name by the Oenpelli locals) I was engaging in an illicit relationship. The clear implication was that, by knowing my skin name, I must also have acquired knowledge of all the rules and obligations that come with such participation. Well, I was even more ignorant of the particular niceties than the teacher had been; I was only a Balanda *, after all, as was she. I know that my transgression was forgiven much more readily than many Balandas forgive similar faux pas committed by Top End Aboriginal people.

[* Balanda is the Top End Aboriginal name for a white person; the first such people the Top End locals encountered were Dutch sailors. The Dutch at the time, referred to themselves as Hollanders and this was metathesised to Balanda.]

Cheers, Rowan


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 08:59 PM

Having been brought up in New Mexico-Arizona, I was taught to avoid direct eye contact with native Americans, particularly the Navajo. To them, it is invasive and impolite. The same holds true for many Hispanics in the region. It goes along with several other English and northern European practices that are offensive to many peoples. Excessive heartiness and exhuberance may also be offensive.

The Chinese, and many other Asian peoples, avoid direct eye contact, considering it invasive.
www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/china-country-profile.html
My city has a large Asian component; direct eye contact with them, unless they have adopted corporate business attitudes.

The link, Traveling Among the Navajos, is instructive about contact with the Dine in their Navajo Nation.
Travel Navajo

Direct, staring eye contact I consider invasive. It is a way of trying to command a situation. I lose respect for the person that tries to dominate in this way.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: kendall
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 09:09 PM

Some body language expert said that if a person looks down and to his left while talking to you, he's lying.
If he blinks a lot, he's lying.
If he's a politician and his lips are moving, he's lying.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 09:13 PM

Try that Navajo link again-
Navajo


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:00 PM

"And perhaps he reminded you of someone?" prompted Sir Henry, mischief in his eye.

Miss Marple smiled and shook her head at him.

"You are very naughty, Sir Henry. As a matter of fact he did. Fred Tyler, at the fish shop... Well, the very first week I was here, there was a mistake in my bill. I pointed it out to the young man and he apologised very nicely and looked very much upset, but I thought to myself then: 'You've got a shifty eye, young man.'

"What I mean by a shifty eye," continued Miss Marple, "is the kind that looks very straight at you and never looks away or blinks."

Craddock gave a sudden movement of appreciation.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Bert
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:24 PM

It is a cultural, class and sometimes race thing. In some cultures, as Q says, it is invasive and impolite. In others, continual eye contact is a sign of aggression. In yet others it is expected, just talk to an Irishman, (I'm generalizing here McGrath, certainly not every Irishman) he will stare you down, nothing personal, just a cultural thing.

I have a friend who is black and his deference and avoidance of any eye contact is noticeable. I don't know how he behaves with other blacks but I accept that it is a mannerism that he learned as a young man when being taught how to deal with white people.

Personally I don't like too much direct eye contact, but nowadays I try to go along with who I am talking to and adjust to them.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:36 PM

Thanks for your participation in this discussion.

I was concerned that a discussion in Mudcat's BS section would be less-shall we say-"expansive" than a discussion in that would take place above the line. I'm glad to see that is not the case.

I appreciate the comments posted about the impact that a person's temperament and/or physical conditions play in giving and avoiding eye contact. And because I would have loved to have been an anthropologist [maybe I'll be one in my next life], I am especially interested in the posts about the attitudes and customs related to eye contact in different cultures within the USA and elsewhere.

**
Rowan, you wrote "...many years ago I was living in Jabiru assisting my spouse in an investigation of the components of bush tucker used by local Aboriginal groups." While it's not relevant to this discussion, my question to you is what is "bush tucker"?

**

Alan Day, you wrote "...when performing in public ,say on stage.. You need maximum concentration,eye contact to a member of the audience to a person not listening to you,shaking his head,coughing etc., makes you lose this concentration.This makes the use of this argument in Political Discussion however a bit unfair, if this is the reason eye contact is not being made.
I would be interested in your reply to this point"

If I am the "your" that you were referring to :o), here is my response-observing the entirity of John McCain's body language during that first 2008 Presidential debate causes me to very much doubt that "needing to maintain a maximum degree of concentration" or an optimal degree of concentration for that matter, was the reason why McCain never looked Barack Obama in the eye during that debate. After all, McCain looked at the moderator, Jim Lehrer. In my opinion, and the opinion of quite a few others, the reason why John McCain made no eye contact with Barack Obama was something else besides him needing to concentrate. But I won't guess what that reason or those reasons weree since I can't look into his eyes and see his soul :o).

However, it would be interesting to research whether and how John McCain made eye contact with his "competitors" during the Republican primary debates. It also will be interesting to observe what changes, if any, McCain makes in this regard during upcoming debates between he and Barack Obama.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: kendall
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 10:55 PM

"Nixon is a shifty eyed son of a bitch." (Harry Truman)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: mg
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:29 PM

I know that it is used as a form of child abuse..making a child look at you while you at least verbally abuse them...look me in the eye...look at me when I am talking to you...

I personally have to work at looking people in the eyes. Generally I don't like doing it. Certainly not with strangers, although here where I live now we just give a formal nod, which acknowledges the person but doesn't say by golly I would like to go on a date with you. mg


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Rowan
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:40 PM

While it's not relevant to this discussion, my question to you is what is "bush tucker"?

In Oz idiom, "tucker" is "food" and has given rise to various expressions. A rather impolite one is to refer to a cook (in a group setting, rather than a familial one) as a "tucker f*cker". "Bush tucker" is the (usually traditional) food gathered from the landscape. Examples from the Top End would include yams, fruits, seeds, honey ants, honey itself, cycad seeds (processed to detoxify them), palm hearts, witchetty grubs, goannas, flying foxes, magpie geese (and other birds') eggs as well as the usual macropods. Since white settlement, feral cattle, feral pigs and feral water buffalo have been included as bush tucker.

Cheers, Rowan


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,number 6
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:51 PM

Wandering eyes


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Sep 08 - 11:56 PM

mg, I hadn't thought of child abuse as an aspect of this subject. I suppose you're right about that, but I also suppose anything taken to the extreme can be abusive. Would you agree?

**

Thanks, Rowan for that explaination. The concept of skin names is fascinating too. And, Rowan, have I asked you before if you've written any books on the subject of the traditional and contemporary mores of Australian peoples? If so [if I've asked you before], I'm sorry but I've forgotten your answer. And if so [if you've written books on this subject, what are their titles?] And if not [if you haven't written any books on the subject and in addition to those books, what recommendations do you have for reading on this subject, off-line and on-line?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 12:20 AM

One commentator after the debate, maybe it was Pat Buchanan, said McCain never looks someone in the eye if he can't stand them and pointed out that he never looked Mitt Romney in the eye, either, and detests him, as he detests Obama. I never paid that much attention to the GOP primaries, so I don't know if that is true about Romney. It's also possible Buchanan was trying to put a spin on it to help out McCain. Personally, I think there's much more to it than that when it comes to him specifically not looking Obama in the eye.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: frogprince
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 12:40 AM

I don't know that Buchanan's interpretation would help my opinion of McCain. Knowing that he despised two different people, as diametrically different as Romney and Obama, to the degree that he cwouldn't look either of them in the eye, would make me wary as to how big a share of humanity he really considers despicable.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: frogprince
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 12:43 AM

How about that, I coined a word: cwouldn't: a comination of couldn't and wouldn't!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Bert
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 12:51 AM

..McCain never looks someone in the eye if he can't stand them...
One would expect presidential material to rise above that.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 05:33 PM

He has a dark and a roving eye
And another one quite similar...
(Kipper Family)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Rowan
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 06:52 PM

Thanks, Rowan for that explanation. The concept of skin names is fascinating too. And, Rowan, have I asked you before if you've written any books on the subject of the traditional and contemporary mores of Australian peoples? If so [if I've asked you before], I'm sorry but I've forgotten your answer. And if so [if you've written books on this subject, what are their titles?] And if not [if you haven't written any books on the subject and in addition to those books, what recommendations do you have for reading on this subject, off-line and on-line?

My pleasure, Azizi.

I don't recall you asking if I've written any such books, but I haven't. Although I have tertiary qualifications and have done a bit of research in archaeology, most archaeology in Oz fits into a "history" perspective rather than the "anthropology" perspective familiar to US readers. This means I've been more involved in the 'dirt under the fingernails' aspects than the ethnographic ones. Of course, with a spouse (now ex, but we're good mates) whose PhD dealt with the ethnobotany (and thus anthropology), archaeology and chemistry of Aboriginal use of cycads, one picks up on a lot of details, especially while she's in the throes of it all. When one behaves as a lubricator-facilitator between groups whose relationships have been a trifle hostile (archaeologists and Aborigines, in fact) you pick up on a few more over the years.

Since returning to SE Oz, where Aboriginal groups have had a much longer history of being disrupted and thus have different responses to some aspects of these matters, I have found that many Aboriginal people regard discussion of even the concept, let alone the details, of skin names as "impolite"; a bit like looking directly at someone's eyes, really.

Many people in Oz and, I expect, many outside Oz are under the impression that, when using the term "Aboriginal" as a descriptor they are adequately describing all such people in Oz. Nothing could be more mistaken. At "First Contact" (generally regarded as 1788 on the east coast but at least as far back as 1640 on the west coast and you could push a few hundred years further back around Arnhem Land) there were at least 750 Aboriginal language groups in Australia. These were language groups in the same sense as all the European Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese), for example are only one language group; "dialects", in the linguistics sense pushed the numbers up considerably. The traditional mores were just as variable.

Most of the relevant bits of my library would leave you in the dark on the sorts of info you seek but I'll try and find some titles to suggest.

Cheers, Rowan


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 08:05 PM

Thanks, Rowan. I appreciate that.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Sep 08 - 08:16 PM

I'm wondering why there appears to be an almost universal prohibition in traditional cultures throughout the world against looking people in the eye.

The idea of automatic respect that I quoted in an earlier post to this thread may be part of the reason why people who were considered of lower status {including children] were taught not to directly look at people who were thought to be of higher status.

But I wonder if one part of the underlying reason for this prohibition in traditional societies was the belief in the evil eye.

Here's an excerpt from an online article about the evil eye:

History of the Evil Eye
The existence of Malocchio, the Evil Eye, is ancient and there are references to it in records written by the Babylonians, Sumerians and Assyrians dating to approximately 3000 BCE, according to Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (Checkmark Books, 1999). Ancient Egyptians used eye make up and lipstick as protection against it. The Bible references it in both Testaments. Ancient Hindus believed in it. The belief among people of Mediterranean and Central American countries still remains strong.

It is believed that there are two types of Malocchio, malevolent and involuntary. Most of the cases are believed to be the latter. The intentional type is called overlooking and is witchcraft meant to harm and cause misfortune. In the Middle Ages, people believed witches did this to bewitch judges into not convicting them and to curse people whom they were angry with.

The involuntary type is when a person may admire or be envious of another's children, livestock or property. It could also result from gazing at another too long.* Something has to be done to prevent or cure this. Usually, an older wise woman knows what must be done...

Protection Against Malocchio
Amulets, generally in the shape of a frog or a horn, were used as protection against Malocchio. Other protective amulets included bells, red ribbons, and plants such as garlic, jack beans, barley and the shamrock.

If a person did not have an amulet, gestures of the hand were employed. One, the fig, is holding the thumb between the index and middle finger while they are clenched like a fist. The other, the horns, is having the middle and ring finger bent behind the thumb and the index and little finger held straight up"...

* italics added by me for emphasis


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Monique
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 04:22 AM

Azizi, since you asked about other cultures, here (France) we make eyes contact with anybody we know, it means "I want to/I can talk to you". Then we avoid eyes contact with any stranger we don't want to talk to/be addressed by and this is why women avoid eyes contact with unknown men in the street as Maeve reported about Italy. It's also why when we hate/don't like someone we avoid eyes contact, it means "I don't want to speak with you"

When talking we usually expect people making eyes contact because it shows they're interested by what they're being told. Eyes wandering around surely say "I don't care about what you're saying, I don't want to listen to you" and this is why you can hear parents or teachers say "Look at me when I talk to you!", usually when you ask children about some mischief they did. But… we expect them not to stare when we tell them off because it means challenge and no shame. In such a dominant/dominated situation, I think it's the same attitude as the dominant dog staring the other dogs of the pack while these lower their heads and eyes (maybe it's what/when all this "lowering your eyes = respect" goes back to).
Avoiding eyes contact when talking is felt as a sign you're lying unless it'd be you're ashamed/shy/afraid (which sums up to the same lower position), it depends on the context.

Hope it helps. Next thread could be "Smiling at people"!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 08:31 AM

Monique, thanks for sharing information about this subject from a French perspective. It's interesting to read about similarities and differences betweem specific customs & the reasons for those customs within a particular nation and throughout the world.

**

Perhaps this point has already been made, but it occurs to me that mainstream American [USA] culture also believes that looking a speaker in the eye is a sign of attentiveness. Teachers, ministers, and other public speakers and also performers expect that their audiences look at them as this shows that the audiences are listening to them.

In African American, West Indian, and other African Disapora cultures periodic verbal responses from the audiences are another sign that audiences are responsive to a speaker. Public schools in African American communities and elsewhere are an important exception to this observation since the public education system does not respect non-mainstream cultural behaviours and the reasons for those practices.

Also, in most African American {and African and African Diaspora} public speaking, ministers, performers, and other speakers elicit responses from their audiences to make sure that they are being heard and understood and also to energize & unify their audiences. For example, within his sermon, a minister will periodically ask "Do you hear me?" "Are you with me?" "Can I get a witness?" Can I get an Amen" and other such questions. And the audience shows that they are listening by responding to these questions. Along with this practice of asking the audience these types of questions, speakers usually makes sure the audience is with them by including call & response questions and/or song.

I've told adapted West African stories to children & teens for more than thirty years and my stories usually include a song with handclapping, and I usually elicit questions from the audience while I tell those stories. For instance, while telling a story about the turtle who was caught eating the farmer's corn, I'll ask the group "How do you think the turtle felt when the farmer said he would make the turtle into turtle soup"? In other stories I might ask "What would you do? {in this situation}? The storytelling is both entertainment and a learning experience as those types of questions interjected within the story help children develop & reinforce critical thinking skills. But my point is that those questions help me gage if my audience is "with me" and helps the audience "stay with me". In contrast, most of my public speaking presentations to adults usually are patterned after the more mainstream [read Anglo-American] practice of giving a speech and then "opening up the floor" to questions & comments.

But I'm going off subject with those points, though they are part and parcel of a discussion about how people might determine whether audiences are being attentive. That said, I'll hold my thoughts on that wider subject and practice being attentive to any other comments from those who might have something else to say.

:o)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 11:37 AM

It all depends on context, really. Avoiding eye contact can be aggressive, or it can be defensive and it can be deferential.

In a shop the other lady the lady at the till was talking to a colleague for a longtime, while a queue built up. Naturally, neither of the two even glanced in the direction of the waiting customers or allowed any eye contact, until they were done.

In that context avoiding eye contact is obviously a way of putting up a barrier, putting the customers on hold so to speak, and it felt quite an aggressive thing to do.

In other settings it's more defensive - for example in a setting where eye contact is liable to be interpreted as making some kind of comment on a stranger's appearance or behaviour.

It isn't just humans that last applies to either. Generally speaking eye contact seems to be taken as a challenge or threat by many animals - you can get even bitten by a strange dog that way if you aren't careful.

But I still think in the context of that debate refusing eye contact would most likely have been intended by McCain's coach as a way of putting Obama ill at ease.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Becca72
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 11:42 AM

For me personally eye contact is very difficult. I was painfully shy as a child. So much so that in public I spent most of the time hiding behind my parents. In school I sat in the back corner and I don't think I said a word in class until I was well into high school. I've made myself come out of that shell (mostly) but I still have a very difficult time maintaining eye contact and will often look for a few seconds and then look away. I know I'm doing it, but I can't overcome that one little piece completely.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Oct 08 - 11:21 AM

'will often look for a few seconds and then look away.'

I think that's perfectly normal, Becca. I wouldn't worry about it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 07:59 AM

If you are a naturally shy person then prolonged eye-contact is something that you avoid, and is one of the longest lasting problems if you are trying to become more extrovert.

I would say from my experience that prolonged eye-contact is considered rude in the South-West of England, whilst the avoidance of eye-contact is seen as rude in the North.

Whether a person is considered as trust-worthy is not connected to eye-contact alone (although excessive or minimal eye-contact is a warning signal), but to other body language in association with it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 12:32 PM

Here's a excerpt from http://changingminds.org/techniques/body/parts_body_language/eyes_body_language.htm which is pertinent to this subject-from a "Western" standpoint anyway...


Making eye contact
Looking at a person acknowledges them and shows that you are interested in them, particularly if you look in their eyes...

If a person says something when you are looking away and then you make eye contact, then this indicates they have grabbed your attention.

Breaking eye contact
Prolonged eye contact can be threatening, so in conversation we frequently look away and back again.

Breaking eye contact can indicate that something that has just been said that makes the person not want to sustain eye contact, for example that they are insulted, they have been found out, they feel threatened, etc. This can also happen when the person thinks something that causes the same internal discomfort.

Looking at a person, breaking eye contact and then looking immediately back at them is a classic flirting action, particularly with the head held coyly low in suggested submission.

Long eye contact
Eye contact longer than normal can have several different meanings.

Eye contact often increases significantly when we are listening, and especially when we are paying close attention to what the other person is saying. Less eye contact is used when talking, particularly by people who are visual thinkers as they stare into the distance or upwards as they 'see' what they are talking about.

We also look more at people we like and like people who look at us more. When done with doe eyes and smiles, it is a sign of attraction. Lovers will stare into each others eyes for a long period. Attraction is also indicated by looking back and forth between the two eyes, as if we are desperately trying to determine if they are interested in us too...

When done without blinking, contracted pupils and an immobile face, this can indicate domination, aggression and use of power. In such circumstances a staring competition can ensue, with the first person to look away admitting defeat.

Prolonged eye contact can be disconcerting. A trick to reduce stress from this is to look at the bridge of their nose. They will think you are still looking in their eyes.

Sometimes liars, knowing that low eye contact is a sign of lying, will over-compensate and look at you for a longer than usual period. Often this is done without blinking as they force themselves into this act. They may smile with the mouth, but not with the eyes as this is more difficult.

Limited eye contact
When a person makes very little eye contact, they may be feeling insecure. They may also be lying and not want to be detected.

Staring
Staring is generally done with eyes wider than usual, prolonged attention to something and with reduced blinking. It generally indicates particular interest in something or someone.

Staring at a person can indicate shock and disbeliefs, particularly after hearing unexpected news.

When the eyes are defocused, the person's attention may be inside their head and what they are staring at may be of no significance. (Without care, this can become quite embarrassing for them).

Prolonged eye contact can be aggressive, affectionate or deceptive and is discussed further above. Staring at another's eyes is usually more associated with aggressive action"...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 03:25 PM

Hi Azizi. I'm sorry I don't have any unique cultural imput to this discussion, but I do have a personal observation. We currently have our 4 month old grandson and his parents living with us and I have noticed that from time his eyes could focus, he will look you right square in the eyes for minutes on end. (I get a special feeling when it's me he's looking at.) This leads to me to think that since he really hasn't any cultural influences yet, it must be natural to look others in the eye and then it is either reinforced or supressed, depending on the culture.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Azizi
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 04:40 PM

Hi, Neil!

Congratulations on your 4 month old grandson. I'm not sure whether looking people in the eye is natural or not. But I know the warm feeling you get when a baby looks at you and then smiles. Of course, some people think that smile might be caused by gas but I chose to believe that it means that the child is pleased to see the person he or she is smiling at.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Looking People In The Eyes
From: Neil D
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 07:24 PM

No way is that gas. Not when you smile first and he smiles back.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...


You must be a member to post in non-music threads. Join here.


You must be a member to post in non-music threads. Join here.



Mudcat time: 28 March 5:28 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.