Eye gaze

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

External link to clip (audio)


ITV News, 20th July 2017


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