Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Eye Contact and Sign Language: A Comment from "Messy Mommy"

Blogger seems to be having difficulty in permitting me to respond to comments, so I'm going to use this method to call people's attention to a fascinating response I received to a recent post, http://childmyths.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-about-infants-and-eye-contact-gaze.html. "Messy Mommy" has written to describe issues that arose when her toddler was paying attention to gestures and not to faces.

Do read what she had to say if you're interested in this eye contact business.

If anyone has had other relevant experiences with their children, I would be very interested in hearing your stories.

5 comments:

  1. I was thinking about this post and eye contact in general early today. I had just finished feeding my son his bottle and was sending a quick text to my mother-in-law. He was babbling and I could see, out of the corner of my eye, he was looking at me. So I smiled and responded ("Really? Is that so?", etc) the same way I always do even though I wasn't looking at him directly yet. Once I put down my phone, I turned to meet his gaze but in the midst of that little encounter, I wondered how babies whose parent/s is/are blind (and the baby is not) are affected by the lack of 'eye contact'. Obviously, I assume the parent would look just like me in that moment - smiling and responding but not directly connecting eye-to-eye. They actually may be closer to eye contact than I was as I imagine they would face the child more or less straight on. (I'm making a lot of assumptions about blindness without any background knowledge so forgive me if I'm way off!)

    I don't have any conclusions or opinions on the outcome but it struck me as interesting and I thought I'd share!

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  2. Maybe an important part of the question is, what is eye contact anyway? Obviously the eyes don't really contact each other, and no matter what the ancient Greeks thought, there aren't any little rays coming out of the yes and touching things! What is it that makes us experience that "zing" when we gaze and feel our gaze returned? Is it a pause in eye and head movement? Is it a brief change in facial expression, like the "eyebrow flash" that occurs when you see and recognize someone? Is it eye position combined with a facial expression conveying emotion, or even posture and voice quality conveying emotion? (We don't identify a "blank stare" as eye contact even though it's directed at our eyes.) I don't really know-- maybe somebody does, but not me.

    I'm just thinking that if eye contact involves several factors, not all of which are there all of the time, a blind parent could provide enough to do the communication that we think of the gaze as doing, even without a real gaze.

    This kind of "eye contact" communication has got to contain a lot of redundant information, or babies wouldn't be able to deal with us with dark glasses on, or alternating between regular glasses on and off, or even with a lot of eye make-up.

    Was your baby still looking at you when you turned back to him, or did he avert his eyes when he didn't get your gaze right away? Just wondering whether your speaking helped bridge the gap when he didn't get a gaze on his first bid for one.

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  3. I mean out of the eyes, not out of the yes (the ayes have it?).

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  4. "This kind of "eye contact" communication has got to contain a lot of redundant information, or babies wouldn't be able to deal with us with dark glasses on, or alternating between regular glasses on and off, or even with a lot of eye make-up."

    That is a great observation. Yes, he was still looking at me...like he was waiting on me. He probably picked that up in my expression and tone of voice. I'm able to pick that up from other people so I imagine it's something we learn early on.

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  5. Nice post. Very informative. Mom should be sensitive

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