What ails you that you keep gazing on the
ground? --Dante Alighieri (Purgatorio, Canto
Sign. 1. Rotating the eyeballs in their sockets to a downward position. 2. Bowing or tilting the head forward so that the eyes face the ground or floor.
Usage: Gaze-down may convey a defeated attitude. It may also reflect guilt, shame, or submissiveness, as when distorting the truth or telling a lie (see DECEPTION). Gazing down while--or shortly after--stating "I am innocent," e.g., shows that a speaker may not believe his or her own remarks. True statements are normally given with a confident, face-to-face or level gaze, which may be held longer than three seconds.
Anatomy. The six muscles that cooperate to move each eyeball are
common to all vertebrates. Direct eye
contact (or primary gaze, i.e., looking straight ahead)
involves all six muscles (Nolan 1996:60). Gaze-down occurs as the inferior
rectus muscle, innervated by the oculomotor nerve (cranial III),
contracts as the prime mover.
Courtship. The downward gaze is a standard cue used when courting couples speak.
E-Commentary: David, do you have any specific research information on how men tend to lower their eyes when speaking to women--which leads the women to believe men are looking at their chest? I would be curious to learn the reason this type of behavior occurs as I do not believe it is always deliberate on the part of men. --Jane (1/23/02 8:36:40 AM Pacific Standard Time)
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. Look
down (e.g., "Looking down at floor") is included in two checklists of
universal human cues (Grant 1969:526, Brannigan and Humphries 1972).
2. Submissive children glance down (McGrew 1972).
3. In primates an unwavering gaze shows dominance and threat
(Blurton Jones 1967, Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1975), while gaze avoidance is a
submissive cue (Altmann 1967). 4. Bowing the head
forward is a component of the protective STARTLE
E-Commentary: "Hi, my name is Danielle and I am attending Northern Illinois University. I am currently researching the body language of President Bill Clinton, specifically surrounding the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Any help, advice or guidance you could offer me would be greatly appreciated." (3/23/00 2:20:24 PM Pacific Standard Time)
Antonym: STARE. See also BOW.
Copyright 1998 - 2013 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)