Two competing models of the social meaning and effects of eye gaze exist. One holds that different levels of eye gaze have clearly identifiable meanings that will yield main effects on such communication outcomes as hiring and interpersonal evaluations. The other holds that deviant levels of eye gaze are ambiguous in meaning and that interpretation depends on contextual cues such as the reward value of the violator. An experiment required 140 Ss to serve as interviewers during a structured interview in which six confederate interviewees sytematically varied three levels of eye gaze (high, normal, low) and two levels of reward (highly qualified, highly unqualified for the advertised position). Results favored a social meaning model over a violations of expectations model: Subjects were more likely to hire and rate as credible and attractive interviewees who maintained a normal or high degree of gaze than those who averted gaze. Interpretations given to higher amounts of gaze were more intimacy and similarity, more immediacy and involvement, and more composure, informality and nonarousal.
“The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood the world over.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“These lovely lamps, these windows of the soul.”
—Guillaume de Salluste
“And I have known the eyes already, known them all—The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase ...”
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Burgoon, J.K., Manusov, V., Mineo, P. et al. Effects of gaze on hiring, credibility, attraction and relational message interpretation. J Nonverbal Behav 9, 133–146 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01000735
- Social Psychology
- Structure Interview
- Social Meaning
- Expectation Model
- Communication Outcome