It is useful to note how directly a depicted person gazes out of the frame. A number of authors have explored this issue in relation to advertisements in particular.
In his study of women’s magazine advertisements, Trevor Millum distinguished between these forms of attention:
He also categorized relationships between those depicted thus:
Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins note that 'the mutuality or non-mutuality of the gaze of the two parties can... tell us who has the right and/or need to look at whom' (Lutz & Collins 1994, 373).
In his study, Millum found that:
In a study of photographs accompanying articles in the magazine National Geographic, Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins found that:
They add that 'if the gaze toward the camera reflected only a lack of familiarity with it, then one would expect rural people to look at the camera more than urban people. This is not the case. One might also expect some change over time, as cameras became more common everywhere, but there is no difference in rate of gaze when the period from 1950 to 1970 is compared with the later period' (ibid., 371-2).
In everyday interaction, a high level of gaze is widely interpreted as reflecting liking (Argyle 1975, 162). In some well-known studies Hess found that pupil dilation can also be a reflection of sexual attraction, and that photographs of female models in which the pupils had been artificially enlarged elicited unconscious pupil enlargement from male viewers (Hess & Polt 1960, Hess 1972, cited in Argyle 1975, 163). Knowledge of this has led some 'glamour' photographers to enhance their photographs in the same way and thus to increase the attractiveness of the model.
Richard Dyer (1982) describes the gaze of males in images aimed at women (pin-ups, star-portraits, drawings and paintings):
Stereotypical notions of masculinity are strongly oriented towards the active. Dyer argues that the male model feels bound to avoid the ‘femininity’ of being posed as the passive object of an active gaze.
Paul Messaris notes that historically, ‘direct views into the camera have tended to be the exception rather than the rule in some ads aimed at men’ (Messaris 1997, 45). However, ‘during the past two decades or so, there has been a notable countertrend in male-oriented advertising, featuring men whose poses contain some of the same elements - including the direct view - traditionally associated with women’ (ibid.). This seems likely to indicate both ‘a more explicit concern about how men look in the eyes of women’ and an acknowledgement of the existence, interests and spending power of gay consumers (ibid. 46). It may also reflect the rise of 'homosociality' - with 'straight' men becoming more accustomed to looking at images of other men (Mort 1996, Edwards 1997).
Charles Lewis reports that from the mids-1980s onwards American teenagers have chosen to be portrayed differently in their high-school yearbooks - the focus of their eyes has shifted from a straightforward, open look to a sideways glance resembling glamour poses in fashion magazines (cited in Barry 1997, 268).
The amount of gaze can also be related to status or dominance: higher status people tend to look more whilst they are talking but less when they are listening (Argyle 1975, 162). Joshua Meyrowitz notes that 'a person of high status often has the right to look at a lower status person for a long time, even stare him or her up and down, while the lower status person is expected to avert his or her eyes' (Meyrowitz 1985, 67).
In conventional narrative films, actors only very rarely gaze directly at the camera lens (though in comedies this 'rule' is sometimes broken). Paul Messaris notes a common assumption that a direct gaze at the camera lens by a depicted person may remind viewers of their position as spectators, but that where such shots are subjective point-of-view shots within a narrative this effect is negated (Messaris 1994, 151). Direct addresses to camera are much more common in the world of television than in the world of film. However, in television only certain people are conventionally allowed to address the camera directly, such as newsreaders, programme presenters and those making party political broadcasts or charitable appeals.
In studying social interaction, Michael Watson (1970) found cultural variability in the intensity of gaze. He distinguished between three forms of gaze:
Of the groups studied, Watson showed that the sharpest gaze was found amongst Arabs, followed by Latin Americans and southern Europeans; the most peripheral gaze was that of the northern Europeans, followed by Indians and Pakistanis and then Asians.