Not always, but it can be a deterrent.
Fear can be good in extreme situations, but it's not worth showing. A bunch of dudes standing around is not something to be afraid of.
I always make eye contact. Sometimes I'll nod a little if some type of non-verbal communication seems warranted. I never back up and never look away.
I'm now 63 years old, so my toe-to-toe fighting days are a long ways behind me, and I have no intention of getting into a physical scuffle with anyone, but I'm always armed and I'm not going to be anybody's easy mark.
People seem to sense it when you won't tolerate being messed with and tend to look elsewhere for somebody easier to take on.
All bets are off when the opposing forces are drunk or high on something though. It is hard to read people like that. Best advice; Stay alert - stay armed.
I look them right in the eyes and continue walking just like I always do. Never show an animal any fear. They only like to prey on fear.
I always look directly at them, and speak first. It leaves me in the control position. It says that I'm confident and aware of them. If they are further away I give the nod. And yes fear does attract them. just acknowledging that they are there is enough most times to send them looking else where for someone who was distracted and not paying attn. DR
What was it Paul Newman's character said in the film The Color of Money: "You gotta be a student of human moves." Loitering around and "people watching" allows such predators to do exactly that.
We've all heard the adage that dogs can "smell fear."
As well as the statement that "toughs" often "respect strength."
IMO, these are all variations on the same thing: acknowledgement that paying attention to such indicators can have a powerful impact on the success or failure of a predator's attack on prey.
Buying our meat from the local butcher has dulled our senses, largely. Consider being in the wild armed with only a knife, with only larger/dangerous game animals available for food sources. What would you consider as indicators that could seriously harm chances for getting the kill? Size, speed, strength, general health, aggressiveness, apparent lack of awareness of your presence, apparent fear ... all of these things could help determine whether you're likely to catch the boar unawares, unprepared and/or incapable of withstanding your attack, or whether you're likely to be gored and stomped to death.
I can't believe any successful street predators would be much different. In a very real sense, their success depends upon it.
A few afternoons of people watching at the local street corner can teach a person much about such indicators. And they're all the more obvious if introduced and honed by a mentor who's adept at picking out such things.
Manage the reason to fear by crossing the street, backtracking, or otherwise avoiding.
If one is sheepish and white-eyed, yeah, they see the fear, but the question is can they overcome a counter-attack or is the fear so paralyzing that one can't get off of the "X"? You will probably get an answer really fast (and be in a fight) or never (and post a question on this forum). One who is paralyzed can't evade. Evade.
Learn the continuum of force as you shift from condition yellow to orange and maybe to red: Avoid, Evade, Counter. (A note on terms, backtracking is avoiding if in condition orange, it is evading if you throw your car in reverse in condition red).
Some would say paranoid, others say its taking proper precaution. She's not dumb and she wont make the same mistake twice. Criminals look for easy prey who arent paying attention. She did fine.
While I believe that in the majority of instances that eye contact will warn folks away from you. We also must not be caught off guard when that eye contact provokes the "whut you lookin at" response.
If you recognize a dangerous situation and still walk into it then what does that say about you? I think it says you aren't playing it safe. If I thought those guys were a possible threat I would have crossed the street or gone a different route.
SA is all about seeing a threat early enough to avoid it or to prepare for it if things go bad. To see a threat and just "act calm" is, to me, folly.
I think you have the right idea that fear may induce a confrontation, but I would say that your response of not noticing the threat is not the opposite of showing fear, but may be even worse. Acting oblivious to a threat may also embolden an attacker because they observe that they can approach unnoticed or at least without "spooking" the prey.
It is not fear that they are looking for, it is weakness. Fear can be an indicator of weakness, but lack of fear does not always mean strength. Sometimes it just means stupidity or distraction, which can also be an opening for attack. I would say that you don't need to run the other way or put your hand on your gun (the two extreems), but aknowledge the presence of the threat, and make sure that they notice you aknowledging their presence. They are looking for soft targets, and an aware, alert individual who is aware of the surroundings is an unnecessary risk. There will be plenty of easier prey come along soon enough.
Or, have you seen the Dish network commercial...? Cable frustrates you, so you blow off steam, get hit in the eye with a racketball, look tough wearing an eye patch, people want to find out how tough you are, and you end up in a roadside ditch. Don't end up in a roadside ditch.