Does civil inattention exist in pedestrian passing?

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Four studies tested E. Goffman's (1963) rule of civil inattention in pedestrian passing–that pedestrians look at a distance to recognize the legitimacy of the other person and then look away to indicate that no special attention is intended. The 1st 2 studies filmed natural pedestrian passing and found no lowering of the head or averting of the gaze as pedestrians approached each other on a college campus. In the 3rd study, 18 undergraduates rated slide sequences of predicted normal and deviant pedestrian passes. Contrary to the predictions of the civil inattention rule, a continuous stare and no looking followed by a sudden look at a close distance were rated as the most polite, most friendly, and most natural of the sequences. Finally, in the 4th study, confederates who passed Ss on the street found that persons did not lower their heads or avert their gaze as they approached. The failure of multiple methods to find the civil inattention rule in operation suggests that it does not exist. (19 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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