General Question

Facade's avatar

Why do most people put their heads down as they pass others?

Asked by Facade (22884points) July 12th, 2009

I see this all the time.
I’ll be strolling through the mall or towne center or whatever and meet eyes with someone.
I’ll smile, and they’ll put their head down and hurry past me.
It’s so weird.
I don’t have cooties I swear

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28 Answers

Ivan's avatar

You do awkwardly smile at people who don’t know you, though.

Tink's avatar

Because they might be shy

seekingwolf's avatar

Looking in someone’s eyes can be A sign of aggression or interest. That’s why you don’t look at people when you pass.

I do the same thing when I walk past. I never look at someone unless I’m listening or talking to them.

Facade's avatar

@seekingwolf I never knew that. Out of habit, I always look people directly in their eyes, even if they’re not looking at me. I knew I was a weirdo…

chyna's avatar

@Facade You’re scaring people, stop looking at them!

Jeruba's avatar

It is considered rude by some, even threatening, to confront strangers with a frank stare. People avert their eyes out of courtesy and to avoid awkwardness or misinterpretation. In completely anonymous, random settings, such as a mall or a subway or city street, this is customary behavior, though not so in small towns.

Within a defined environment, such as a workplace or hospital or campus, people will often meet others’ gaze and offer a slight cordial smile, meant to indicate benign intent—we don’t mean each other any harm. Then they might exchange pleasantries or look away, depending on the culture of the place.

Randy's avatar

@Facade If you want to see them run, just show your teeth as your looking at them.

Facade's avatar

@chyna lol, If I scare someone then people are pussies.
@Jeruba What a great answer :)
@Randy haha, maybe I’ll wear a scary mask :P

Tink's avatar

Jeruba always gives GA’s, sometimes she just leaves me speechless

Darwin's avatar

It may depend on the local culture. Here in Texas, folks rarely put their heads down and hurry past. We tend to howdy strangers as we go through the day.

When I was in New York and Washington DC I noticed a lot of head ducking, so the culture was apparently different there.

Move to Texas and you’ll do just fine.

willbrawn's avatar

It’s because people would rather communicate via the Internet now. Sad really.

lloydbird's avatar

@Facade People do this for a number of reasons, fear, uncertainty, guilt and others. But mostly because of a lack of cultural ground rules that would give permission for individuals to give polite acknowledgement to one another when out and about. If the ground rules were there, like at Christmas time, when it is ok to to interact with strangers – people do! Clearly, you are an individual with a love and appreciation of others and are driven by your personal values to want to express your feelings to others. Known to you or not. Or am I just reading my own outlook into your behaviour?

Facade's avatar

@Darwin I’m not too good with overly-friendly people. I guess there’s a pretty even balance of people duck and those who acknowledge.
@lloydbird Hmm..I suppose I’m like that :P When I’m in a good mood anyways

Darwin's avatar

@Facade – I wouldn’t say that Texans are overly friendly. We just acknowledge each other’s existence more than New Yorkers do. It takes a couple of seconds to say “howdy” and smile, and then you have passed each other and are on to other things.

Facade's avatar

@Darwin That sounds reasonable. I’ve been to small towns which have people that get angry if you don’t say “hi” every time you see each other, even if it was 5 times within 5 minutes.

Dr_C's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba to a degree but would also add that many people in today’s society have trouble with interpersonal relationships… especially when confronted with a new situation or unusual circumstances. We as a society tend to isolate ourselves within a specific comfort zone which tends not to include strangers on the street. It could also be seen as a sort of safety net or a wall we put up to avoid either an awkward social situation in which we’d be forced to interact outside our comfort zone… or to just maintain anonymity and some form of isolation while out of our safety net.

lloydbird's avatar

@Facade I think that I would prefer to be greeted ” 5 times within 5 minutes ” more than ignored 5 times in 5 minutes. Especially the latter 4 out of the 5 times ; because I would ‘know’ the person after the 1st greeting. :-]
@Dr_C I think that you are not wrong in what you say, and am curious to know why you believe society is inclined this way. And do you think that some form of ‘ground rules’ for general, interpersonal relationships would be of benefit ?

Jayne's avatar

Well, I generally nod cordially at people when I pass, so I suppose if one of us were walking quickly or if you looked away too soon, then I would appear to be putting my head down :) But somehow I doubt that’s what you are talking about.

Facade's avatar

@Jayne Yea, that’s not it..It’s like as soon as they see you, they’ll immediately look at the ground until they pass you.

YARNLADY's avatar

Watta ya lookin at foo’?

Jayne's avatar

Well, in your case, you are quite good-looking, which probably makes more than a few shy souls feel rather intimidated when you smile at them.

Facade's avatar

Well thanks. I honestly never thought of it that way.

whatthefluther's avatar

Perhaps it’s the result of the warm Southern California sunshine and a more laid back attitude, but generally speaking, people in L.A. don’t seem to avoid acknowledgement by exhibiting this behavior. But, I view the world and passers-by from a wheelchair (and am nearly always smiling and making eye contact), so my perception may be unique to my perspective. See ya…..wtf

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Most people try to avoid eye contact with strangers in passing. People with low self esteem tend to look at the ground by default so when they feel socially uncomfortable, the eyes go down by force of habit.

Dr_C's avatar

@lloydbird I believe that society is inclined to adopt this kind of behavior because of ground rules (unspoken though they may be) that already exists… in essence it’s a form of respecting others’ personal space and having them respect yours.

@whatthefluther your personal conveyance not withstanding i believe that both your perception and perspective are quite unique. Positive and intelligent individuals tend to have a different outlook and seem to effortlessly cut through this kind of archaic social convention. You in particular are an extremely friendly, thoughtful and positive person… so it doesn’t strike me as anything but commonplace for someone in your particular position (meaning someone so well rounded and generally cool) to see anything other than the bright side of people and situations. I also agree with your point about the california weather… although in my experience the friendlies tend to come out more the closer you get to shore (which is why i love La Jolla and Coronado).

whatthefluther's avatar

@Dr_C…..So you have been to the nude beaches down in that area! I find nothing but eager smiles when I visit! Thank you for the warm and glowing words….there is nothing quite like our California sunshine! Take care Doc! See ya…..wtf

mattbrowne's avatar

Frustration. Disappointment. Bitterness. But sometimes it can also be harmless. Lost in thought. Brainstorming. Creating an idea.

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