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Maintaining eye contact as a mea...

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:16pm

Maintaining eye contact as a means to instilling calm.

I found this fascinating:

Holding eye contact, or “gaze,” with hysterical citizens is one of the most effective methods police officers can use to calm them down, according to new research conducted by the University of New Hampshire that relies on footage of the FOX TV show “COPS.”

...Kidwell analyzed more than 35 hours off footage and hundreds of police-citizen interactions as part of her research. She found that police rely on holding gaze to calm individuals in a number of situations, including getting them to cooperate during questioning, keeping them from interfering with emergency workers, and gaining their compliance during arrests.

“There is another, perhaps less institutionally obvious responsibility that the officers are undertaking in this case. This is a responsibility that has to do with being a ‘helper,’ here, specifically with emotional work. This case and others that involve, for example, a small child whose parents have been arrested and a woman who has been abused by her husband, demonstrate that police responsibilities also include simply soothing people who are in crisis and trying to ameliorate their emotional suffering,” Kidwell says.

Two comments:

1. At least some good is coming out of "COPS."

2. The technique -- holding one's gaze while trying to calm him or her down -- may be a good tool for those who have panic/anxiety patients in their lives. A panic attack, after all, involves receding from the world and the people in it, into one's own head -- and eye contact is a way of pulling someone who's stressing back into the world, into person-to-person contact.
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