Head Canting

Have you ever noticed that some people, when their picture is taken, tilt their head to the side? The behavior is called head canting. I never knew this until I stumbled upon an article titled "Head Canting In Paintings: An Historical Study" in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior (Spring 2001).

Some factoids about head canting:

• Researchers speculate that it's a submissive gesture. The sociologist Erving Goffman described it as "a form of ingratiation or appeasement achieved by reducing one's overall height."

• The authors of the "Head Canting in Paintings" article examined 1498 figures in the works of 11 painters from the 14th to the 20th centuries. They concluded that, throughout history, head canting has been associated with submissiveness:

religious and mythological figures exhibited much more head canting than commissioned portraits. This finding supports the idea that head canting is strongly connected with the expression of submission, appeasement, ingratiation, and request for protection... In contrast, in paintings portraying nobles, professionals, and artists, head canting was minimal or absent.

Some googling about the subject also uncovered a bit of trivia:

Head-tilting was a signature cue of method actor James Dean. Dean's head-tilts seemed to say, as East of Eden director, Elia Kazan put it, "Pity me, I'm too sensitive for the world."

     Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 26, 2008
     Category: Photography and Photographers | Psychology

My sister took a photo of me the other day and afterwards laughed and said 'It's so cute - every time I take a photo of you, you cock your head to one side!'
So I guess I'm a serial head canter! :lol:
Posted by Nettie on 08/27/08 at 06:43 AM
Nettie -- I looked back at the pictures from Edinburgh. You are a serial head canter!!! How funny!

But when you do it, it's cute. If I were to do it, it would look like I had something wrong with my neck.
Posted by Alex on 08/27/08 at 10:49 AM
I don't think I do it. Does that mean I'm arrogant or something? 😊
Posted by MadCarlotta on 08/27/08 at 11:43 AM
I flipped through some photos in my camera...I don't do it when I'm alone in the picture. I tilt my head closer to another person if I'm not alone.

But I read something in a magazine about "taking a good picture" and it talked about turning or tilting your head slightly, rather than having the picture taken straight on. I have very small eyes, and when my picture is too straight on, they also look very close together b/c the bridge of my nose is rather thin.
Posted by Maegan on 08/27/08 at 01:22 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.