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civil inattentionthe ways in which an individual shows that he or she is aware that others are present without making those others the object of particular attention (GOFFMAN, Behaviour in Public Places, 1963). For example, the eyes of one person may glance at the other but not directly engage, or quickly disengage should a more direct engaging seem likely to occur. Civil inattention illustrates the existence of an ‘interaction order’ and ‘interaction ritual’ which Goffman sees as governing the general processes of social interactions (see INTERACTION, INTERACTION RITUAL AND INTERACTION ORDER).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000