Weird things start to happen when you stare into someone's eyes for 10 minutes

Posted on August 21, 2015

Photo: flickr

The sensations that ensue resemble mild "dissociation" – a rather vague psychological term for when people lose their normal connection with reality. It can include feeling like the world is unreal, memory loss and odd perceptual experiences, such as seeing the world in black and white.

Giovanni Caputo recruited 20 young adults (15 women) to form pairs. Each pair sat in chairs opposite each other, one metre apart, in a large, dimly lit room. The participants' task was simply to stare into each other's eyes for 10 minutes, all the while maintaining a neutral facial expression.

When the 10 minutes were over the participants filled out three questionnaires: the first was an 18-item test of dissociative states; the other asked questions about their experience of the other person's face (or their own face if they were in the control group).

The participants in the eye-staring group said they'd had a compelling experience unlike anything they'd felt before. They also scored higher on all three questionnaires than the control group. On the dissociative states test, they gave the strongest ratings to items related to reduced colour intensity, sounds seeming quieter or louder than expected, becoming spaced out, and time seeming to drag on. On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 per cent of the eye-staring group agreed that they'd seen some deformed facial traits, 75 per cent said they'd seen a monster, 50 per cent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner's face, and 15 per cent said they'd seen a relative's face.

There are prior studies to back this up. These studies found that simply staring at a dot on the wall for a prolonged duration can induce dissociative-like states, as can staring at one's own face in the mirror (an exercise nicknamed the "strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion"). However, staring into another person's eyes might be the most effective dissociation-inducing exercise yet. Comparing the questionnaire scores in the current study with those reported in his past research, Caputo says that what he calls "interpersonal gazing" has a more powerful dissociative effect than staring into a mirror.


Category(s):Other

Source material from http://digest.bps.org.uk/


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