Direct Gaze as a Social Stimulus: The Example of Aggression

  • Phoebe C. Ellsworth
Part of the Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect book series (ASCA, volume 2)


The study of gazes and glances, like research on other forms of nonverbal behavior, has developed without regard for traditional disciplinary lines. It has brought together ethologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and several subspecies of psychologists. This diversity has provided a healthy hybrid vigor, so that the study of nonverbal behavior is now flourishing even though 20 years ago it appeared to be nearly extinct. In some ways, however, the diversity has been more apparent than real; communication among investigators in different disciplines was initially facilitated by a number of shared assumptions. Paramount among these assumptions was the notion that the repertoire of nonverbal behaviors, including eye movements, constituted a set of signals, each of which had a specific and invariant meaning. Opinions diverged as to who had the capacity to read these meanings. For the ethologists, membership in the same species was considered a sufficient qualification. For the anthropologists after Darwin (1872) and the social psychologists before Tomkins (1962, 1963), Ekman (1972), and Izard (1971), membership in the same culture was regarded as necessary, and many doubted if even that was sufficient (Bruner & Taguiri, 1954). The psychiatrists and clinical psychologists tended to regard nonverbal behavior as a much more esoteric code, one which required special training and clinical insight to decipher.


Facial Expression Nonverbal Behavior Social Stimulus Experimental Social Psychology Visual Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phoebe C. Ellsworth
    • 1
  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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