When participating in a conversation, eye gaze can be an important part of the communication process. Our eyes signal the channel of communication: who we are talking to. But it is not always possible to control this, as Diane Abbot found out in an interview recently with ITV news.
In the interview transcribed below, Abbott, a Labour politician, starts out looking directly at the interviewer. However as she stumbles over her figures, she shifts her gaze to someone off camera and to the left of the interviewer. Unfortunately this reinforces to the viewer her hesitation and signals a subconscious appeal for help.
Shifting eye gaze
The first shift occurs in line 04 when a very small glance is made to the left. In line 16 she makes a more obvious shift and addresses someone, presumably an aide, off camera and to the left of the interviewer. This occurs around the time that she appears to be struggling to come up with exact figures for the policy. Eye gaze is an important part of the communication channel and by switching to someone off camera so obviously, Abbott opens herself up to criticism for not knowing her brief.
01 INT: ... where would that money come from 02 DA: well (.) what we’ve said 03 is we would find the money 04 ((slight glance to left)) 05 to recruit the ten thousand 06 police people 07 by (.) cutting (.) the (.) 08 cutting 09 we would find the money 10 because we’d look at capital gains tax 11 the Tories have cut capital gains tax 12 and we want to restore it 13 and that would give us I think 14 a hundred and seventy 15 (2.0) 16 ((looks to left and addresses person off camera)) 17 huh (.) sorry (1.5) 18 we would find the money 19 by restoring levels of capital gains tax 20 INT: and that’s an extra (.) three hundred million a year? 21 DA: we think that by restoring the cuts in (.) 22 capital gains tax 23 that would find us another 24 three hundred million pounds a year