Manner of Gazing

A close look into several Ways of gazing

Gazing eyes
Gazing eyes. Image by Colleen HenneyOpens in new window

By observing the eyes, one can tell the quality of relationship between people. Eye contact, directions, and movements during a conversation can reveal which one is playing the dominant role. Strong personalities make eye contact rather fast and gaze more often and more persistently. Following is a brief overview of various ways of looking:

  1. The Direct Look
    This consists while conversing, one or both persons look at the other with wide open eyes, directly. This shows undivided attention to, genuine interest in, and sincere respect of the other. Looking at a person can be an act of power and domination.
  2. Looking Up
    When a person looks upwards at nothing in particular, he is thinking, visualizing something. In particular, he is probably making pictures in his head and this may well be an indicator of a visual thinker.

    A speaker who looks up during his speech is, generally, ‘looking up’ in his mind for the words he has prepared.

    Looking upwards and to the left can indicate recalling a memory. Looking upwards and the right can indicate imaginative construction of a picture.

    Looking up may also be a signal of boredom as the person examines the surroundings in search of something more interesting.
  3. Looking Down
    Looking down involves not looking at the other person, which hence may be a sign of submission (‘I am not a threat, really; please do not hurt me. You are so glorious I would be dazzled if I looked at you.’). Looking down can thus be a signal of submission. It can also indicate that the person is feeling guilty. A notable way that a lower person looks down at a higher person is by tilting their head back. Even taller people may do this.
    Looking down and to the left can indicate that they are talking to themselves (look for slight movement of the lips). Looking down and to the right can indicate that they are attending to internal emotions. In many cultures where eye contact is a rude or dominant signal, people will look down when talking with others in order to show respect.

    Head lowered and eyes looking back up at the other person is a coy and suggestive action as it combines the head down of submission with the eye contact of attraction. It can also be judgmental, especially when combined with a frownOpens in new window.
  4. The Vertical Scan
    This is an important body languageOpens in new window cue that is not easy to detect unless one is paying close attention. When a person finds someone attractive, he takes a sharp look at the face, then looks down over the body, going from head to foot to check the other out.
  5. The Horizontal Scan
    This usually occurs after one has been talking to someone intimately, for example, lovers. There comes a moment when both look deeply into each other’s eyes and read into them an invitation to greater intimacy and contact: like kissing.
  6. Lateral Movement
    Much of our field of vision is in the horizontal plane, so when a person looks sideways, he is either looking away from what is in front of him or looking towards something that has taken his interest.

    A quick glance sideways can just be checking the source of a distraction to assess for threat or interest. It can also be done to show irritation, as when a comment is not appreciated. Looking to the left can indicate a person recalling a sound. Looking to the right can indicate that they are imagining the sound. As with visual and other movements, this can be reversed and may need checking against known truth and fabrication.

    Eyes moving from side-to-side can indicate shiftiness and lying, as if the person is looking for an escape route in case they are found out. Lateral movement can also happen when the person is being conspiratorial, as if they are checking that nobody else is listening. Eyes may also move back and forth sideways (and sometimes up and down) when the person is visualizing a big picture and is literally looking it over.
  7. The Sidelong Glance
    This is generally referred to as ‘the stolen look’. The observer looks furtively sideways, rather than directly, so as not to be caught in the act. He keeps on looking for as long as the subject of his gaze is unaware of being observed. The observer, of course, ensures this by looking only at an angle. However, the moment he is detected and the eyes of both meet, he immediately lets his glance slide away. To steal sidelong glances takes a skill!

    The sidelong glance is also given deliberately to indicate that one person is suspicious, or doubtful, or distrusting of the other person.
  8. The Stare
    This is looking fixedly at a person. If we wish to pointedly ignore someone or to treat him with contempt, we can stare at him. If we wish to humiliate a person, we may gaze, and after we have locked glances, continue to stare.

    Fast (1970) makes a case out for staring. He says that people stare at artOpens in new window, at sculptureOpens in new window, at sceneryOpens in new window, and at animals in the zoo for as long as they want to; they stare even from close quarters. However, to stare at people in this way is a sign of disrespect, so we generally avoid doing so.

    The blank stareOpens in new window is an indicator of boredom. The person stares blankly into space, with an unfocused look, though in fact he may have his eyes fixed on the speaker, he is paying no attention to what is being said. An added cue to his disinterestedness is that he does not even blink.

    The Sparkle in the eyes can be commonly found in interactions between lovers or when they are questioned about their relationship. It is a very reliable cue to the opposite partner of genuine love. The eyes sparkle when one is in a pleasant or joyous state. Sparkling eyes are also an attribute of those who have ‘magnetic’ personalities. The physical origin of the eye sparkle continues to remain a mystery. Even after a detailed examination of the pupilsOpens in new window, the cornea, and even the white sclera of the eyes, there are no scientific data to show how the sparkle originates. Yet, we all recognize it when we see it.
  9. Eye Dart
    This happens when a person is under pressure. His eyes tend to dart in all directions. It becomes obvious that the person is nervous, and this tension is transferred to the listener, who begins to feel uncomfortable.
  10. Eye Shuttle
    Submissive people frequently flick their eyes from side to side, often without moving their head. This is designed not only to try and take in everything that is happening around them, but also, instinctively, to search for possible escape routes.
  11. Eye Block
    A person who feels superior to the other may combine the eye block gesture with that of tilting the head backwards and giving the other a long look; this is commonly referred to as ‘looking down one’s nose’.