Civil inattention is a process in which strangers nearby demonstrate that they know each other without imposing. It is a situation of such a type when various people claim to be in public space.


The term civil inattention was introduced by Erving Goffman to describe the circumstances of human behavior in society among strangers. Personal life, mainly in small towns, is under scrutiny; therefore, the concept of Hoffmann was positioned to maintain public order.

Examples of civil inattention include unobtrusive and peaceful viewing of strangers in such a way as to ensure neutral interaction with the approaching contact. When a stranger goes towards, both people recognize each other’s presence through fleeting eye contact. The possibility of more personal contact or conversation is possible only if people are familiar, want to meet, or clarify some information.

Civil inattention is a means of creating a possible private life in society through civilized norms of self-detachment. For example, courtesy is a way of protecting oneself from demands in relation to oneself in society. This salient feature provides for abstract, conflict-free relationships in the context of the requirements that an open community follows.

Civil inattention has negative aspects and consequences. For example, it can lead to feelings of loneliness or awareness of the uselessness and rejection of society. The sense of detachment dulls the tendency towards responsibility for the well-being of others, and the person falls out of public life. People who have moved to urban areas often face the depersonalization of situations that, as necessary, peaceful coexistence could be turned into contact communication.