Friendly Visual Contact (“The Look”) as an Essential Principle of a Hostage’s Safety

Tatyana Petrovna Budyakova


Nonverbal communication may prove more effective than words for initiating amicable contact between conflicting sides in dangerous situations. The article presents the results of an experimental study on the significance of eye contact for hostages’ survival. It was found that one of the most productive modes of eye contact was one which may be interpreted by the aggressors as friendly. The most dangerous were those showing emotions such as hatred, threat, irritation, and contempt. Demonstrations of fear and indifference were relatively safe. Visual signals were interpreted differently according to gender, which should not be neglected when choosing a behavioral strategy in a hostage-taking situation. The experimental results contradicted a widely adopted recommendation for hostages not to look into terrorists’ eyes. The experiment indicated that hostages, especially males, who avoid direct eye contact with their captors, may be perceived as dangerous. Not all experimental participants were able to show the emotion the experimental context demanded, indicating a need for special training in emotional expression for potential victims of terrorism to improve their safety in captivity.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n5s4p139

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This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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