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Eyes Always Averted

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Eye contact is usually an integral part of face to face communication, but some people missed the memo. It may not always be easy to pick up on, since we usually aren't seeing the scene through another character's eyes but through the metaphorical third person. The reason and duration varies; they simply may not do so to people who are not close to them, to unnerve other characters, a social disorder, or none may be apparent.

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They don't necessarily need to keep their eyes averted all the time, but this also isn't for fleeting circumstances such as a pouting child. It must be a part of their normal interaction with some or all people.

Sister Trope of Eyes Always Shut and Hidden Eyes. Does not apply to those with an Eyeless Face. Sometimes the reason for Cool Shades.

Linked to Magical Eye, Eye Beams, Hypnotic Eyes, and other similar eye-power tropes, as avoiding accidental activation of those powers can be a justification for this trope.

Also see No Eye in Magic.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kuroe Akaishi of Kaiju Girl Caramelise starts off this way. Eye contact with other people tends to make her emotional — and emotion triggers her Involuntary Shapeshifting. This is why it's always awkward when her crush Arata Minami constantly looks her right in the eyes.
  • In My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Yoshiteru Zaimokuza Cannot Talk to Women, so when he asks for help, he usually only talks to Hachiman Hikigaya, avoiding even eye-contact with Yukino Yukinoshita, who also asks things when he goes to Service Club for critics about the light novel he's writing, getting very nervous when Yukino confronts him about not getting any attention from him, not even a look.
  • Shrinking Violet Hinata from Naruto starts out with this issue, but she has outgrown it, along with her shyness, by the end of Shippuden.
  • At one point in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Nozomu believes that he can escape arranged marriage by eye contact, as he is a master of avoiding eye contact. Probably counts as the neurological or psychological disorder variant.
  • A Silent Voice: After being bullied for years for tormenting a deaf girl in his youth, Ishida is left unable to look people he has no personal connection with in the eyes, usually watching the ground. And when he does, he metaphorically crosses their faces or has panic attacks.
  • Spice and Wolf: Holo tends to keep her eyes averted from new people and in negotiations, only directly looking at someone as a tactic to manipulate them (such as Lawrence's moneychanger friend) or after an arrangement of some sort has been reached. The American covers of the light novels (except for the first one) curiously depict essentially the same scene as the Japanese covers, but with a more realistic art style and with Holo's head turned away.

    Fan Works 
  • In the CSI fanwork "Face The Music," Grissom is like this for quite a few chapters after his rescue because his captors kept slapping him in the face and forcing him to avoid eye contact. Consequently, his mind still fears more abuse if he makes eye contact.
  • I've Got Your Back: At the start of their relationship, Marina was so shy that she wouldn't look Pearl in the eyes.
  • In Let Us Be Your Poison, Pyrrha dislikes eye contact. It's too personal for her and an avoidance of eye contact is also common for people on the autism spectrum.
  • Yamujiburo's fan kid for Dawn and Zoey, Aurora, is so shy that she rarely makes eye contact with anyone besides her parents and two closest friends.
  • Penny in You and Me (and Everyone in Between) avoids eye contact because she's autistic.

    Film 
  • And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself. A journalist tells Frank Thayer that Villa will kill a man just for looking at him. When Thayer is sent to negotiate with Villa, he keeps avoiding his gaze until Villa complains that he can’t trust a man who won’t look him in the eye.
  • Shane from Backstreet Dreams stares at the ground most of the time. A major part of Stevie's therapy is getting him to make eye contact.
  • Change of Habit: When Michelle grabs the autistic child Amanda's chin, she tries to turn her head away.
  • Michael from Cries from the Heart looks all around him, but he rarely looks at people's faces for more than a fraction of a second.
  • David's Mother: When Sally tries to force eye contact on David, he looks away or squeezes his eyes shut.
  • In Down in the Delta, the autistic toddler Tracy screams if anyone looks her in the eye.
  • Newt Scamander, the protagonist of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, prefers the company of his magical beasts to humans, which is pretty easy to tell considering he never makes eye contact and often stares straight down to avoid looking at anyone. One of the only times he manages eye contact is at the end of the first movie, when he defiantly looks straight into Grindelwald's eyes as he is defeated.
  • Jovana from Midwinter Night's Dream is autistic and rarely looks people in the eye, despite Lazar's efforts to force eye contact on her.
  • In Ming and Ming, the autistic boy Xiaoming rarely looks people in the face, causing Daming to complain about his lack of manners.
  • Xinxin from Son of the Stars closes his eyes when people try to force eye contact on him.
  • Raun from Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love rarely looks at people, and when he does, he seems to be staring through them.
  • Under the Piano: As a toddler, Rosetta refuses to look her parents in the face, even when they grab her and turn her towards them.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, 6'4" Hugh Jackman pulled off looking smaller and more intimidating in part by looking down. The downward look appears more intimidating and thus sold Jackman as scrappier and more aggressive than he looks in real life.
  • In Zig Zag (2002), ZigZag doesn't usually look at people when he talks to them, which enrages his father and Mr. Walters.
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    Literature 
  • Anything But Typical: People assume that when Jason doesn't look at them, he isn't paying attention, but the truth is that he finds paying attention much easier when he isn't being distracted by people's faces.
  • In the third Artemis Fowl book, a scientist working for Spiro does his best not to look when a Mafia Princess is talking, in the event that he's called as a witness.
  • Fi from The Black Fox of Beckham can only stand to look at people's faces for a fraction of a second at a time. She's learned to read people's expressions at a glance so she doesn't have to look for too long.
  • In Clade, the autistic boy Noah only very fleetingly looks at other people. He spends most of his time absorbed in his screen.
  • In Daystar and Shadow, Robin and Shadow rarely make eye contact, either with each other or with other people. Robin eventually learns from his long-lost sister Annette that this is a symptom of autism.
  • In The Deep (2019), Yetu befriends the human woman Oori, who seems to have an aversion to looking anyone in the face. At first Yetu thinks that Oori thinks that she's ugly. Later she understands that it's loneliness from being the Last of Her Kind.
  • Discworld: When reporting to Vetinari, Vimes always stares at a spot slightly above the Patrician's head, in part due to the fact that even gods can't hide or disguise their eyes.
  • The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden always tries to avoid eye contact, since for a wizard, direct eye contact starts a soulgaze, or a direct experience of that person's innermost character. The memory of a soulgaze never fades, and the experience can be fairly traumatic. For those who don't know, however, it's one of a set of behaviours that makes him come off as mildly autistic.
  • In The Eagle Tree, March tries to avoid looking at people, since he doesn't like the way their faces move around.
  • Siofra from "Fairest of All" never makes eye contact — the closest she comes is looking at people's faces, which she only does intermittently.
  • Vivy from Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! hates making eye contact, which not only is incredibly uncomfortable but also makes it even harder to find the right words than it already is. She looks at people's noses if possible.
  • One Hercule Poirot novel has an Information Broker deliver his reports to various items of furniture, but never once looking Poirot in the face. No reason is given for this.
  • Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: Eye contact makes Hoshi feel like her soul is being yanked out through her pupils. She still sometimes forces herself to make it while interrogating people, but otherwise she avoids it as much as possible.
  • In The Jungle Book, it is made clear that wolves and other predators avoid eye contact. Mowgli occasionally asserts dominance over them by staring them directly in the eye.
  • Kea from Kea's Flight is autistic, so eye contact makes her fidget and clench her stomach.
  • Anthony from Love Anthony likes clear cause and effect. People's eyes can look different even in the same situation, so he avoids looking at them. His mother once waited hours for him to glance at the camera so she could take a picture.
  • Tammy from MARiiMO normally finds it uncomfortable to reciprocate eye contact, although she finds that she doesn't mind it with Mariimo.
  • Miracle Creek: As a young child, Henry could go weeks without looking directly at anyone. Elizabeth once pinched his shoulders hard enough to leave bruises, and was elated when he made direct, prolonged eye contact with her as he twisted to get away. When he was older, Elizabeth said, "Henry, don't be spacey; look at me, always look at the person you're talking to," in almost every conversation. Now that he's dead, she wonders why she couldn't just talk to him like a human being instead of obsessing over where his eyes were pointed.
  • Mouse can't make eye contact without being painfully overwhelmed by the flood of information. He mostly tells people apart by looking at their shoes, and only briefly glances at their faces to learn what they look like.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. Along with Hates Being Touched for the title character. Even when talking to someone right next to it Murderbot prefers to stare at the wall, and use one of its drones or a hacked security camera to look at them. Some of this has to do with spending most of its time (before it became a Rogue Drone) hidden behind an opaque faceplate wearing Powered Armor, but it's implied that it's also a trait of Murderbot's personality.
  • Erin from The Nowhere Girls never looks people in the eye. When she has to look someone in the face, she looks just below their eyes so they can't tell the difference.
  • In Numbers, Jem always makes an effort to avoid making eye contact with any person she interacts with or even passes by because when she does look them in the eye, she sees their number, which happens to foretell their date of death.
  • Tara from The Place Inside the Storm finds eye contact weird and uncomfortably intimate. When Dr. Gutierrez tries to force it on her, she flinches and freezes up. Later she reaches a mostly-autistic commune, where it's considered rude to make eye contact with people you don't know well.
  • Oscar from The Real Boy can't bring himself to look people in the eye, and feels an overwhelming resistance when he tries. When he's forced to interact with the public, people think he looks shifty and accuse him of hiding information about recent events.
  • Emmet from The Roosevelt finds looking directly at people overwhelming, but he can see very well through his peripheral vision. One perk of this is that he can check out Jeremey without him noticing.
  • In Tales of the Otori, Otori Takeo gains the power to look into another person's eyes and make them fall asleep. The first time he does it to a human, after practicing on animals, he does it inadvertently, and for a significant amount of time after that he avoids looking anyone in the eye, even and especially his closest friends, in case he accidentally uses the power again.
  • This Alien Shore: Dr. Kio Masada, one of the Guerans, is iru, or autistic, and doesn't usually look at other people while he talks to them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 7 Yüz: In "Hayatın Musikisi," the shy Pınar has trouble maintaining eye contact when speaking to other people. Oşa specifically cites it as an obstacle she must overcome to become self-confident.
  • Babylon 5: Both Delenn and Lennier start out this way in their respective careers. Lennier keeps it up longer, though.
  • The Big Bang Theory. In the flashback to when Leonard and Sheldon first met, Sheldon makes very little eye contact. It's a little off-putting and not immediately noticeable, but adds to just how much better he's become in social situations.
  • In Hannibal, Will Graham wears his glasses in such a way that he doesn't have to make eye contact but can still maintain a measure of courtesy. Jack Crawford explicitly calls him out on this.
  • In Scrubs, Doctor Cox tries to get his friend's son to make eye contact with him, knowing that if he doesn't, it could mean that he's autistic.
  • In The Untamed, when faced with people he dislikes or finds annoying, Lan Wangji never looks at them directly in the eye. When he does, it is either because he is addressing them because they managed to push some of his buttons or because he is confronting them back.

    Video Games 
  • Kindergarten: Lily's sprite's eyes are always turned away from wherever she's facing, possibly to indicate either her shy personality or her sadness over her brother Billy's disappearance. Either way, she's lost the trait in Kindergarten 2 following her and the protagonist's rescue of Billy at the end of the first game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Missing Stars: The socially anxious and painfully shy Annaliese isn't good at maintaining eye contact.

    Webcomic 
  • In Freefall, Doctor Bowman and the staff working with him make a point of avoiding eye contact, with the staff wearing tinted lenses to keep it from happening by accident. As an uplifted chimpanzee, Bowman can't help but take eye contact as a threat and react aggressively. Bowman does at some point initiate eye contact with Florence, because it's part of the Trigger Phrase that allows him to reprogram her.

    Real Life 
  • A common characteristic of autistic people, including Asperger's Syndrome and other neurological or psychological differences, is having difficulty maintaining eye contact with anyone, even close family members. It's often one of the earliest signs. Many autistics say that it's easier for them to listen to you if they look down or away. It's usually when they appear to be completely out of touch that they're the most connected and paying attention to you.
  • Expectation of eye contact in conversation or acquaintance encounters is a relatively recent phenomenon, even to the West. In many cultures (such as Japan, and many Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Native American societies), it is considered rude or intimate to maintain eye contact, in part of regard for eyes as windows to the soul.
    • Islamic societies, for example, recommend people to lower their gaze, as eye contact especially with women might be interpreted as lustful.
    • In Japan, children are taught to direct their gaze to the teacher's neck or neck-tie, and when as adults, they tend to lower their eyes as a sign of respect.
    • In Native American societies, children are taught not to look at the face of a person of a superior position, e.g. parent. Many Native students got into trouble in boarding schools because the non-Native teachers misinterpreted eye contact avoidance as disrespect.
  • Many animals avoid eye contact for several different reasons, broadly related to domination by or submission to the starer:
    • Anyone who is working with primates will do this, as most species see direct eye contact as a challenge. It's not uncommon for captive gorillas to bang on the glass of enclosures in zoos because a guest has been looking at him in the eyes. A famous sign on the fence to the monkeys' area of the Miyajima Island zoo says: "We do not like to be stared at our eyes. If you do so, we are not responsible for what will happen!"
    • Despite the damage they can do to a person, most bears are omnivores and generally see humans as potential threats. If one is met in the wild, a person should try to avoid eye contact to avoid being seen as a danger.
    • The opposite is true for mountain lions. As apex predators that often hunt by ambushing their prey, if you happen to see one it is important to maintain eye contact so that they see you as at least equal and don't get any ideas about trying to disappear and hit you from another direction.
    • Dogs will stare at a person, but avoid eye contact if the human is considered dominant; if the human isn't, or is unfamiliar, they can react aggressively, as they see the staring as their own dominance being challenged. Wolves are known to be even more aggressive towards eye contact because, unlike domestic dogs, they haven't learned through millennia of living with humans to look at their faces for guidance.
    • Cats see direct, sustained eye contact as a threat. But looking at you with a "squint" or blinking means "I love you." If you want to tell your cat that you love him, look at him for a second and then slowly close your eyes.
    • Even humans are this way. Casually looking someone in the eyes is normal and at most means that they're curious about you, however humans don't take to being stared blank in the eye so kindly. It's often either threatening or anxiety-inducing, unless it is clear that they're just focusing on you while talking.
  • People with social anxiety or anxiety disorders very often avoid staring people in the eyes due to it inducing anxiety.
  • Downplayed with people with strabismus, who, due to circumstances, always have one of their eyes looking in a different direction.

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