An obvious indication that approach is not welcome.

An obvious indication that approach is not welcome.

Blocking is a term used to describe when a person wishes to distance themselves from a distressing stimulus. Blocking is a part of the fight or flight response, and takes the form of the flight element because it creates distance between things we wish to avoid.

Hands to the eyes indicates either disbelief in what is being seen or a desire to block ideas from view.

Hands to the eyes indicates either disbelief in what is being seen or a desire to block ideas from view.

“Eye blocking” happens by covering the eyes either wholly or in part. When viewing disturbing images on the movie screen (or even in real life), people will bring both hands up to cover their eyes. An abbreviated cue occurs when the hands are brought up to the sides of their eyes like the blinders used on horses to keep them from being distracted. Another version of blocking is when both hands come up to rub the eyes, or seem to pinch the eyes from corner to center with just one hand. Other times, the hand comes up and covers the eyes in part, with a partly clustered set of fingers so that view isn’t entirely obstructed. Blocking can be done by briefly touching one eye with the index and middle finger in response to hearing something negative, by closing the eyelids for a longer than normal duration, or more dramatically by closing them tightly in response to hearing something particularly distasteful. Blocking can be done with books, articles of clothing, or any other object.

Pulling the head back is a way to create distance between you and something distasteful when escape is impossible.

Pulling the head back is a way to create distance between you and something distasteful when escape is impossible.

Blocking can happen through the creation of distance, called “distancing language.” We might see distance forming when a particularly bad offer is tabled at a boardroom between competing firms. The contract might be shoved away, or parties might lean away from the table or away from the speaker, or the feet might be moved toward the nearest exit. The legs might be crossed away from detestable people, so the outer part of the leg cuts off access to the ventral (the vulnerable) part of the body. In an extreme version, the arms can grab the ankle when crossed away so as to lock it in place. This is an unmistakable signal of rejection through it’s denial of access. The hands also display like and dislike. When a couple is in disagreement they will be seen moving their hands away from their spouse, usually off the table and onto their laps and when they agree their hands will be brought back up or moved closer. These sorts of general agreement indicators happen free-flow in real time so they reflect the true sentiment and the stimulus that has caused it.

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