Friday, February 5, 2010

Do you see me when I pass you?

I decided to conduct an experiment. I randomly chose 10 people who walked passed me within 10 feet and whether or not they made eye contact. Once they walked passed, I requested to poll them on why they saw me or not. Specifically I recorded their gender, age and why they did or did not make eye contact (or see me).

My poll included 4 females and 6 males who agreed to be polled. The males polled were age 20-42. The females polled were age 19-40.

Here are my following conclusions from this poll:

  • 4 out of the 6 Males made eye contact.
  • 1 out of the 4 Females made eye contact.
Males more often made eye contact based on the following reasons:
  1. It’s friendly and should be done.
  2. Cultural reasons such as awareness/safety.
Males that did NOT make eye contact gave the single following reason:
  1. They were simply preoccupied.

Females more often did NOT make eye contact based on the following reasons:

  1. Cultural issues regarding safety and previous familiarity with someone.
  2. Preoccupied with their own thoughts and technological distractions such as I-pod, phone, etc.

Females that DID make eye contact gave the single following reason:

  1. Simply awareness regarding safety.

My conclusion from this limited poll is that males are driven by a male hierarchy and a need for self preservation. Technology and preoccupation are components but do not over-ride the more primal behaviors.

At least in these situations the females feel relatively safe, so are preoccupied with their own thoughts and comforts. They do have a limited awareness of surroundings due to safety but are more likely to see you if they know you and ignore you if they don't.


  1. Hmm interesting, I wonder what your results had been if you were a female? Would be interesting to see if your conclusion would change?

  2. Nick, funny you should say that because I was thinking about not only the environment the study was done, when and where but what if I was a female, what if I was 6'8", what if I was handicapped or deformed? Wish I knew who you were in a photo on your site I like the way you look at stuff and would enjoy talking sometime.

  3. I'm pretty excited that you did this study. This is something that I work on personally everyday. Within the past few months I have realized that casual eye contact isn't what it used to be. Strangers seem to avoid eye contact for more than a mere glance. Ever since I noticed that I would look away as soon as I made eye contact with a stranger, I have been trying to break the habit. Now, I try to to look the person in the eye until they look away. Most of the time they look somewhere else anyway, but occasionally I will get somebody that will look me back in the eye for a while. It's kind of like a miniature staring contest, I guess. Some people (mostly males, if not all) may think that I am trying to intimidate them or stare them down, but I'm just trying to sustain eye contact and break the habit. I haven't had any problems or altercations yet.

    After work lately, I have been walking to the train station and I try to make eye contact with a lot of people. Many of the people I encounter are impoverished and not well off. I don't think many people care to make eye contact with such characters, but once eye contact is established for a few seconds, it tends to create a small bond. I've also had several instances where I and the other person give the head nod as if we were passing each other in the hallway in high school.