Target glance as a Pre-Assault Cue

We use “target glancing” to refer to any visual assessment of the surroundings or direct intentional staring at a specific point on a potential victim. A gaze in the opposite direction is commonly combined with a definitive weight transfer moment before a sucker punch. There are three main arguments typically expressed for target glancing. The suspect may be looking for potential witnesses, escape routes, or an attempt to distract the victim.

Witness checks

“Bad guys” live victimizing people, and they are aware of the potential legal consequences of their actions. A visual review of the area before an attack for witnesses can help the attacker avoid getting caught or identified as the aggressor. The presence of witnesses may serve as a deterrent; hence the dark lonely alleyway is a common place for criminal attacks compared to a crowded family park. Since target glancing still manifests during unplanned attacks within crowded areas, it’s the weakest reason and does not provide reasonable justification for “hitting” first.

Escape routes

Escape routes are another reason offered up and make sense. A person looking to make a quick buck might assess the area for a potential escape route. They hope to quickly achieve the goal (the goal being a nebulous term referring to the intended infliction of violence or obtaining an item of desire, such as a watch or wallet) and create distance from the location. If we study behavior to justify taking initial action, we want a reason tied to imminent assault. The escape route, no doubt, applies to some percent of attacks but has a closer connection to a planned attack. Is there another reason we would see a person look away moments before a strike?


Looking away before a sucker punch is often a result of the attacker attempting to deceive the victim and catch them off guard. People, being generally curious, become distracted by simple motion. Consider the classic nose touch prank. A person says, “Your shoes are tied,” when you look down, they flick your nose. The distraction creates a moment of defenseless curiosity and a perfect opening to strike. Looking away can also be a way for the attacker to avoid making direct eye contact with the victim, which can sometimes trigger an aggressive response. Avoiding direct eye contact can lure a person into a false sense of security for the victim. They launch the attack during the moment of distraction. Deception is probably the best reason to link target glancing to an imminent attack.

If a person looks away and makes a definitive weight transfer, there is a high probability of an imminent attack. The consequence of not taking action can be dire and completely unrecoverable. This behavior can indicate someone preparing to commit a violent act, and it’s important to be aware of it to stay safe.