Don’t get hysterical!

By • Published: June 12th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The classic television cure for hysteria is a bracing slap across the face, after which the overwrought victim usually mutters, “Thanks, I needed that.”

Perhaps a more effective remedy can be found on reality T-V.

Police officers often calm hysterical people by maintaining eye contact with them.

University of New Hampshire researchers eyeballed about thirty-five hours of footage from the FOX T-V show “COPS,” specifically watching for techniques police officers use to manage distressed citizens.

Scientists described a particular incident in the journal Discourse Studies where a woman whose grandson had been shot… and she had been shot at herself… was oblivious to all of the police’s entreaties to calm down.

Finally an officer gently turned her face toward him, forcing her to look at him.

They maintained eye contact as she composed herself and her breathing pattern returned to normal. At that point, she was taken to the hospital to see her grandson.

Researchers found that police also relied on eye contact to get people to cooperate during questioning and during arrests.

But these powerful gazes are far more than ways to gain the upper hand.

The researchers noted that police use eye contact to soothe people who are in the midst of a crisis or an extremely emotional trial.

It’s something to watch for the next time you’re looking at reality police shows.

But unlike the actors on the receiving end of the classic T-V slap, you’ll find that very few people actually say, “Thanks, I needed that.”