Gazing Into Someone’s Eyes For 10 Minutes Changes Perception

The eyes are the doors to the soul. Imagine being able to gaze into them to have a glimpse of the person to whom they were gifted. A new study has taken a step further, and shown that two people staring into each other’s eyes experience a change in the state of consciousness.

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Staring into the eyes of someone for 10 minutes non-stop can give you hallucinations, and even “out-of-body experiences”. Or so report the volunteers of the new study led by Giovanni Caputo, a psychologist from the University of Urbino, Italy.

20 participants were asked to sit in pairs and look into each other’s eyes in a dimly lit room where they could make out the facial features of their partner.

A control group was set up, whereby the volunteers only stared at a blank wall.
After the 10-minute experience, the participants filled in questionnaires to record their feelings during and after.

Those from the first group reported that they experienced something they had never felt before. Caputo explains that from the responses of his volunteers, it can be deduced that the experiment had a tremendous effect on their visual perception and mental state. The participants felt “spaced out”, as sounds appeared to be quieter or louder than what was expected; reduced colour intensity was also noted. Furthermore, 90 % of the first group reported seeing deformed facial traits, while 75 % claimed seeing a monster. 50 % saw aspects of their own face on that of their partner, and another 15 % thought they saw the face of a relative. The title of the study is representative of the results: Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion.

According to experts, this phenomenon – illusion – might be the result of neural adaptation: staring at something will cause perception to fade until the person blinks because our neurones can slow down or stop their reaction to unchanging stimulation.

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