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  #1  
Old 05-01-2009, 05:20 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Talking with your eyes closed

I'm curious about something.

I've noticed that a lot of people, when they talk, especially at the beginning of a sentence or for a significant pronouncement, will have their eyes closed as they speak.

Presumably there will be some Dopers who do it. I've seen it a lot in Brits, not so much in Americans, though I don't think it would be a cultural thing. I even have a friend who does it, but I haven't asked him about it, as it seems like a bit of a weird thing to bring up in conversation.

Anyways, I was wondering if there's any particular reason for it. If anyone here does it, why do you do it? Are you aware that you're doing it?

Is it completely involuntary, like a nervous tic? Is it a deliberate emphasis?

Hope someone here has some insight. Pun not intended.
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  #2  
Old 05-01-2009, 05:50 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Since I have noticed no such thing, I cannot help you. My suggestion is that you do a somewhat more complete study of the phenomenom before you seek out reasons; my guess is that you will find that the overwhelming majority of people don't do this at all, and of those that seem to do it, only a few will do it consistently.
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  #3  
Old 05-01-2009, 05:55 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Well, I wasn't suggesting everybody does it. Just that some do it. I know they do, because I've seen them do so.

I'm not sure what the point of your reply is.
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  #4  
Old 05-01-2009, 06:05 AM
Neeps Neeps is offline
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I've definitely noticed some people doing it, and once you notice it, you can't un-notice it. My work colleague is one of them. He also seems to insert long pauses in his sentences, which usually coincide with the closed eyes. It seems to be when he is thinking about something complicated or trying to recall details. Or pontificating over some point that I have lost interest in.

As to why, I really have no idea. So that doesn't really answer your question.

I have also noticed, fairly recently in fact, that I also close my eyes as odd times. Not while I'm talking, but when I'm in the shower, brushing my teeth, or using a hairdryer. I've been trying to figure out why, but so far, it's a mystery to me. I'll let you know if I figure it out.
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  #5  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:11 AM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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I do this a lot when I'm trying to gather my thoughts. I've been trying not to do it so much because it's probably pretty distracting to others to have your eyes closed for half the conversation.
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  #6  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:37 AM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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I do it occasionally, but only when I'm trying hard to concentrate or remember something.
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  #7  
Old 05-01-2009, 08:17 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyingRamenMonster View Post
I do this a lot when I'm trying to gather my thoughts. I've been trying not to do it so much because it's probably pretty distracting to others to have your eyes closed for half the conversation.
Ditto. Somebody walks in with a detailed question about topic X, which I haven't dealt with in 3 months, and interrupts me when I'm deeply into working on topic Y, Z, and A, each unrelated to the others.

Stop, close eyes, try to page out the current stack frame for each of Y, Z, and A, then pull in X from long term storage, then all the crap connected to X, then play back the question & try to formulate a response. Works better eyes closed.

Or it's an irritating affectation I've picked up. Take your pick.
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  #8  
Old 05-01-2009, 08:27 AM
Jelymag Jelymag is offline
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I have a hard time getting sentences out sometimes. Not stuttering, just decoding all that thought into verbal communication. I've never thought about the eye-closing thing. I think I do, in fact, close my eyes when trying to get sentences out sometimes. I'll have to pay more attention. Interesting.
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  #9  
Old 05-01-2009, 09:17 AM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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I wonder if it's along the same lines as when you are talking to someone and trying to remember something you look down and if you are trying to make something up you look up. Closing your eyes seems similar to these as you are trying to remember or formulate what you're going to say.
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  #10  
Old 05-01-2009, 09:24 AM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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I think it's probably a mostly subconscious thing that people do. I don't mind if it's a momentary thought-collection thing, but if people do it for extended periods, or often, it's kind of unnerving.
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  #11  
Old 05-01-2009, 09:30 AM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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I don't know if it's her acting style or if she's trying to remember her lines but Kelly Monaco does it all-the-time on General Hospital.
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  #12  
Old 05-01-2009, 12:03 PM
rivulus rivulus is offline
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Personally, my memory is very visual. I remember things by recalling a page in a book or a screen on the computer. Closing my eyes turns off what my eyes see, in favor of what my inner eye sees. If I leave my eyes open, the images are superimposed, which is confusing.

p.s. don't ask me to remember something while driving. Thanks.
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  #13  
Old 05-01-2009, 12:07 PM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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My wife tells my that I close my eyes every time I take a bite of food. I myself have no idea I'm doing it until she points it out.

I also realize this information in no way helps answer your question.
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  #14  
Old 05-01-2009, 12:25 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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In some cases, I think some people do it because they aren't comfortable making eye contact during a conversation. I hate talking to people and having them look off over my shoulder the whole time, so I tend to look at their faces when I talk. Some people have closed their eyes in response. It's very weird.
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  #15  
Old 05-01-2009, 02:23 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Sometimes I start talking before the voices have finished telling me what to say. Closing my eyes helps me concentrate.
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  #16  
Old 05-01-2009, 05:31 PM
Capcha Capcha is offline
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I think it sort of shut down one stimuli, you can concentrate on the other.
How about the few times (or maybe it's just me) someone is trying to remember how a certain song goes, so they put their fingers in their ears (and sometimes in addition they close their eyes) if they are in an area with noise (people talking or radio is playing)
Sometimes I shut my eyes, if the other person is staring into mine as we speak, and i am not as comfortable to stare at theirs. I either look away, or to be less rude, i just close them as if i'm remembering something.
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  #17  
Old 05-01-2009, 05:38 PM
The Seventh Deadly Finn The Seventh Deadly Finn is offline
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Charles Schulz apparently noticed it too, because Peanuts characters do it, usually while holding up one finger.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
Since I have noticed no such thing, I cannot help you. My suggestion is that you do a somewhat more complete study of the phenomenom before you seek out reasons...
Wow. When I don't have anything to add to a thread, and I'm not interested in the topic, I usually just refrain from posting. But hey, that's just me.

Last edited by The Seventh Deadly Finn; 05-01-2009 at 05:41 PM..
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  #18  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:26 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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I have a friend who closes her eyes when she talks. Usually just at the good parts of telling a story. I don't even think she knows she is doing it. So with her I think it is a visual emphasis on what she is saying.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thetruewheel View Post

Wow. When I don't have anything to add to a thread, and I'm not interested in the topic, I usually just refrain from posting. But hey, that's just me.
Tru dat, wheel.
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  #19  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:33 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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I do it since I became easily distracted and lose my current thoughts. This way I actually start to say what I wanted and can usually get through the complete thought. I have to ask the checkout person to please not chat to me while I try to pay or we'll be there a long time. Before this I never did it because I was good at multitasking and having a crowd of people all waiting for their questions to be answered was not a problem.
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  #20  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:46 PM
FilmGeek FilmGeek is offline
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I do this. It's usually because I'm experiencing some serious visual distraction and closing my eyes is the only way to blot that out to gather my thoughts.
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  #21  
Old 05-01-2009, 07:51 PM
Meeko Meeko is offline
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Oh, and if you are looking for a street name, turn down the radio. Because, that helps your vision..... somehow
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  #22  
Old 05-01-2009, 08:16 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Thanks for your personal experiences

It looks like the most common reason is to shut out distractions, which now that I think about it, makes a lot of sense. I suppose it may become a habit after that, even when there aren't distractions around.

Most of the other reasons people have cited are also logical. I'm very happy that this personal mystery has at last been solved.
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  #23  
Old 05-01-2009, 10:01 PM
Ruby Ruby is offline
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Originally Posted by Meeko View Post
Oh, and if you are looking for a street name, turn down the radio. Because, that helps your vision..... somehow
And I can't hear without my glasses on. Go figure.
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  #24  
Old 05-02-2009, 12:09 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mnemosyne View Post
In some cases, I think some people do it because they aren't comfortable making eye contact during a conversation. I hate talking to people and having them look off over my shoulder the whole time, so I tend to look at their faces when I talk. Some people have closed their eyes in response. It's very weird.
If people are making an unusual response to your use of eye contact, you're probably doing it for too long.
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  #25  
Old 05-02-2009, 05:01 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I heard that Mitch Hedberg developed the habit while performing to ease his stage fright.
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  #26  
Old 05-02-2009, 06:47 AM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
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I do it when talking on the phone, mostly to close out other distractions. I think this started when I was doing some sale talks over the phone. I know it freaks out my father when he notices it, but I figure my audience on the other end of the phone can't tell.
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  #27  
Old 05-02-2009, 06:48 AM
PuddingCat PuddingCat is offline
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I've noticed this before and have found that it tends to occur most when the speaker is about to say something condescending, of dubious truth or otherwise "lecturingly" (is that a real word?).

After thinking about it I figured it was a disassociation thing; knowing they are going to say something a bit stupid, they effectively remove themselves from the conversation as much as possible without actually walking away.

t.
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  #28  
Old 05-02-2009, 07:07 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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I've seen it done, but the only time I do it is if I'm trying to visualize details, like if I'm giving someone directions and I need to walk my way through the route.
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  #29  
Old 05-02-2009, 08:40 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trmatthe View Post
...or otherwise "lecturingly" (is that a real word?).
Perhaps you mean "patronising"?
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  #30  
Old 05-02-2009, 09:32 AM
Eliahna Eliahna is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trmatthe View Post
I've noticed this before and have found that it tends to occur most when the speaker is about to say something condescending, of dubious truth or otherwise "lecturingly" (is that a real word?).

After thinking about it I figured it was a disassociation thing; knowing they are going to say something a bit stupid, they effectively remove themselves from the conversation as much as possible without actually walking away.

t.
I can picture what you're talking about, but I don't think that's the only time people close their eyes when they're talking, and I think the mannerisms associated are very different.

I know I close my eyes when I'm trying to recall a piece of information during a conversation, or when I'm trying to piece something together in my mind. I don't know if I do it when I'm lecturing or being patronising; I guess I'll have to pay more attention next time I'm doing that.
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  #31  
Old 05-03-2009, 10:35 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1920s Style "Death Ray" View Post
If people are making an unusual response to your use of eye contact, you're probably doing it for too long.
Well, it's very few people out of all the people I ever speak with, so I'm more inclined it's those few individuals who are uncomfortable with it for their own reeasons rather than for me "doing it for too long" in general. When I notice people reacting like that, I do change the way I interact with them to try and put them more at ease, but having a 20 minute conversation face-to-face and never looking directly at someone just feels odd to me.
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  #32  
Old 05-04-2009, 11:03 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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I have a very shy friend who probably keeps her eyes shut for most of any conversation I have with her. It's a little odd, but I'm used to it. More commonly, closing your eyes may help (or seem to help which, given the quirks of the human brain, is almost as good ) you recall things that you don't otherwise have on the tip of your tongue.
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  #33  
Old 05-04-2009, 02:36 PM
drpepper drpepper is offline
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All I can say is, I know exactly what you're talking about in that there's about 2 or three people that I can think of that do this.

In the cases of the people I know, an additional physical descriptor is that the eye-closing isn't so much "closing them with a look of squinty concentration", as if they are trying to remember something, but rather a more alert look, with eyebrows arched and eyelids fully visible and flat/smooth. It seems to happen when they are slightly emphasizing a point or a contrasting point in the conversation. (is this consistent with your observations, those of you who have observed the phenomenon?)

In the case of one particular person, she is a chronic liar-backstabber-deceiver, and seems to do it when she is articulating some sort of lying powerplay. (Just one datapoint; not saying all of them do this).
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  #34  
Old 05-04-2009, 05:47 PM
Auntbeast Auntbeast is offline
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I read somewhere that it is a strong indication of lying. The fact that my mother, while telling a known whopper, will shut her eyes every single time...backs it up on my end.

Come to think of it, I recall it being a "tell" in regards to lying. Similar to the "which direction you look" thing that says looking one way shows accessing memory, while looking another way shows making shit up. Sorry, no cite for either claim.
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  #35  
Old 05-04-2009, 07:56 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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I don't think it's a consistent indicator of lying. It may be for specific individuals, but I've known too many people to do it when they're clearly not lying for that to be the case.

Still, I can believe it's an indicator of something, not a nervous tic like I originally surmised, but it would be of different things for different people.
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  #36  
Old 05-04-2009, 08:23 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
I do it occasionally, but only when I'm trying hard to concentrate or remember something.
Yeah. There are only two occasions when I do this. The first is that I often do this while trying to think while using a speech-to-text program; obviously no one else is there, so no one sees.

The other time I've done this is while trying not to lose my temper when speaking to difficult people at work. It's easier to speak calmly to people being completely unreasonable if you can shut them out for a second.
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  #37  
Old 05-05-2009, 09:29 AM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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Originally Posted by Auntbeast View Post
Come to think of it, I recall it being a "tell" in regards to lying. Similar to the "which direction you look" thing that says looking one way shows accessing memory, while looking another way shows making shit up. Sorry, no cite for either claim.
God, I hate that rule. Now that everyone "knows" it I'm constantly paranoid about looking in the right direction in any situation where I might be under suspicion, which probably makes me seem like I'm lying 24/7.
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  #38  
Old 05-05-2009, 12:31 PM
lalenin lalenin is offline
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My barber does this, but only when he's shaking hands. It's weird but he does a good job on my hair, so I'm assuming his eyes are open the rest of the time.
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  #39  
Old 05-05-2009, 12:33 PM
bup bup is offline
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I do it to concentrate - I have ADD, and any distraction can knock me off course.

Plus, GuanoLad is ugly.
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  #40  
Old 05-05-2009, 05:15 PM
ianjohnson ianjohnson is offline
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The eye closing comes at some kind of pronouncement, or important (to them) point. Closing the eyes turns the conversation from 2-way to 1-way. They are shutting themselves off from any visual cues from you (at least half of a conversation is visual) which might distract or interrupt them. What they are saying at that point is very important and interruption will not be allowed, or possible.
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  #41  
Old 05-05-2009, 06:29 PM
billfish678 billfish678 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianjohnson View Post
The eye closing comes at some kind of pronouncement, or important (to them) point. Closing the eyes turns the conversation from 2-way to 1-way. They are shutting themselves off from any visual cues from you (at least half of a conversation is visual) which might distract or interrupt them. What they are saying at that point is very important and interruption will not be allowed, or possible.
Well, EVERY word I say is important to the information I am trying to convey. I don't just talk to hear my own voice you know. And I do get tired of people INTERRUPTING....so there you go.
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  #42  
Old 05-05-2009, 07:04 PM
Auntbeast Auntbeast is offline
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Originally Posted by FlyingRamenMonster View Post
God, I hate that rule. Now that everyone "knows" it I'm constantly paranoid about looking in the right direction in any situation where I might be under suspicion, which probably makes me seem like I'm lying 24/7.
You ain't alone brother. Read enough about cold reading or poker tells and I swear, you will never have a comfortable conversation again. I was freezing at my husbands doctors appointment today, all I could imagine was that I looked closed off and untrusting.
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  #43  
Old 05-05-2009, 08:11 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Originally Posted by bup View Post
Plus, GuanoLad is ugly.
I'd consider that explanation if they were talking to me when they close their eyes, but sometimes they're talking to extremely attractive people.
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  #44  
Old 05-05-2009, 10:02 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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Anecdote : back when I was in translating school, we used to do "liaison" exercises, i.e. live oral translation. One speaker makes a small speech in one language, then you have to repeat it (or at least, the gist of it) in another language for the second speaker, who then responds in his language, and so forth. Oh, and no notepad allowed. After 20 minutes, your brain turns to cheese, trust me on this

But anyway, whenever I was in the translator role, I'd close my eyes both listening to the first speaker, and saying back whatever he said too. It helped me concentrate, and allowed me to keep a kind of visual, imaginary flowchart of the dialogue. It's hard to explain, but I'd imagine glowing icons representing the key points of what was being said, and symbols representing the rethorical links between them. In other words, I kept a mental notepad.

When the exercise was over, the students who played the speakers would always say "the translation was good... but the closed eyes thing is creepy as hell. Cut that out."

However, I cannot imagine doing that for my own thoughts - I don't have to try as hard a I can to keep my own thoughts in my head and not forget half of them, do I ?
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  #45  
Old 11-07-2010, 11:59 AM
jollynz jollynz is offline
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'I cannot help you"

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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
Since I have noticed no such thing, I cannot help you. My suggestion is that you do a somewhat more complete study of the phenomenom before you seek out reasons; my guess is that you will find that the overwhelming majority of people don't do this at all, and of those that seem to do it, only a few will do it consistently.

WHY ON EARTH would you reply to someone (when you have no need to) stating you cannot help them because YOU have no experience to answer the question. Yet you feel compelled to tell them to to do more study???

IT'S A QUESTION on a message board, if you don't have the answer, don't answer!

How about you keep your advice to yourself when you can't answer a question. You, I'd say, are a true DOPE.
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  #46  
Old 11-07-2010, 01:42 PM
Gary Robson Gary Robson is offline
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Originally Posted by jollynz View Post
WHY ON EARTH would you reply to someone (when you have no need to) stating you cannot help them because YOU have no experience to answer the question. Yet you feel compelled to tell them to to do more study???

IT'S A QUESTION on a message board, if you don't have the answer, don't answer!

How about you keep your advice to yourself when you can't answer a question. You, I'd say, are a true DOPE.
[moderating]
Since you're new to the Straight Dope, and don't know your way around yet, I won't issue a formal warning on this.

1) We do NOT allow personal insults in the General Questions forum. Don't do it again.

2) There's no need to re-open a thread that's been dormant for a year and a half just to complain about something that's already been addressed.
[/moderating]
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Last edited by Gary Robson; 11-07-2010 at 01:43 PM..
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  #47  
Old 11-07-2010, 04:08 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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This is an old question. Amazingly this answer was almost the exact thing I original posted. Damn zombie threads.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 11-07-2010 at 04:12 PM..
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  #48  
Old 11-07-2010, 07:21 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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It has nothing to do with the OP, but I used to do a lot of telephone tech support on a piece of software. I prefer to wake up later, but sometimes the inconsiderate bastards would call at eight in the morning. I got so I could pick up the telephone receiver and answer virtually every question about the software without ever once opening my eyes - I had memorized the interface. By never opening my eyes, it was a lot easier to go back to sleep once I had them off the phone.
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  #49  
Old 11-08-2010, 10:19 AM
tripthicket tripthicket is online now
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Addressing the consciously or unconsciously lying issue, I worked with a woman in computer technical support that did this. Whether it was a personal conversation or an exchange of technical information, she'd close her eyes a second or two into the conversation. Arching the eyebrows at certain points seemed to indicate emphasis, but her basic facial expression almost never changed. She would also use her hands as some people do in "normal" conversation.

Given that we were exchanging the tech info, which I knew to be right 95% of the time or better, I never had occasion to believe she was lying or even embellishing the truth, as she knew it.

Since she's the only person I've ever known who did this throughout almost an entire conversation, I found it a quaint quirk which I (almost) never mentioned, and at times I thought it a charming affectation.

I think I asked her about it once; can't recall her answer exactly, but it was something along the lines of either "I don't know" or " I do not!" or both.
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  #50  
Old 11-09-2011, 04:29 PM
no_it_all no_it_all is offline
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What it means:

Closing
Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can mean 'I do not want to see what is in front of me, it is so terrible'.

Sometimes when people are talking they close their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning away so eye contact can be avoided and any implied request for the other person to speak is effectively ignored.

Visual thinkers may also close their eyes, sometimes when talking, so they can better see the internal images without external distraction
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