The Communicative Implications of Staring

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

Staring is a continual or fixed gaze on someone or something of visual interest, for a prolonged period of time.

Staring is generally done with eyes open 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 disbelief, 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. A short stare, with eyes wide open and then back to normal indicates surprise. The correction back to normal implies that the person would like to stare more, but knows it is impolite (this may be accompanied with some apologetic remark).