Science Questions

Why do some people blink more than others?

Sun, 17th Aug 2008

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Roy Preston asked:

Why do some people blink more than others?


Most people blink once every two-to-ten seconds. Blinking can be triggered by dust or pollen, if you get hay fever in the summer like I do. Itís mainly controlled by nervous impulses from the brain. Everyone has a sort of blinking pacemaker in their brain and everyoneís is different. Everyoneís is set slightly differently.


This area of the brain is known as the chordate nucleus and it controls your blinking by sending impulses down the nervous system into the muscles around your eyelids. There are of course other things that can affect your blinking like fatigue and also some diseases like Parkinsonís and nerve disorders.


Whatís quite interesting is that when we blink we donít actually notice that weíre blinking because our brains filter out the signal. Itís the same as when you move your eyes around a room. Your brain cuts out the signal of when your eyes are moving so that you donít get confused and feel like the world is spinning. Itís called corollary discharge.


I suppose if you blink a lot itís probably because your brain makes it that way or you need to get more sleep.


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Roy Preston asked the Naked Scientists: Dear Dr Chris, Some people, like for instance, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, hardly ever blink. Me, I can manage about 15-seconds without blinking. Why is this? I'd love to know! Roy Preston What do you think? Roy Preston , Sun, 3rd Aug 2008

I'm sure I've read that men blink less frequently than women.
This may be due to blinking whilst hunting being a disadvantage;
whilst blinking the stalking hunter has momentarily lost sight of the prey,
and the blink movement may alert approaching prey to the hunter lying in wait.
RD, Sun, 3rd Aug 2008

Hi Roy
Hope this is helpful
Blinking can often indicate nervousness, apprehension, fear even. A cunning boxer in the ring waits for the eyes to close before delivering a connecting blow.

Some Presenters, interviewers, news readers, doctors, surgeons, politicians, religious people charity fund raisers etc etc, deliberately use blinking to make their words more believable and are trained to do this along with raising eyebrows and other body language to emphasise a point. However, IMO it makes them less credible and to me usually indicates they are concealing some truth.

Body Language: How to Spot a Liar!
Now it is important to note that the average person has a blink rate of approximately 20 blinks per minute. This number will vary slightly between people. That is why it is important to note that when you first meet with anyone, you must immediately begin calibrating their body language through simple observation.
When someone is relaxed, so will be their blink rate, at whatever their "normal rate" is. Make a mental note of their normal blink rate. Look at the pupils as well. If they are interested and engaged, the pupils will be dilated, even in a well lit area.

In fact there is a whole science about how we use subliminal suggestion to relax others. For example, if we are blinking a lot we let the person we are communicating with feel less threatened and more relaxed.
Andrew K Fletcher, Sun, 3rd Aug 2008

Not blinking much can also indicate a neurological disorder so don't believe in body language as being an accurate guide.

The thing about body language and also using calligraphy graphology to determine traits is that if you know the rules you can easily cheat! that mad man, Sun, 3rd Aug 2008

Many thanks for the responses. I could understand the reasons stated above if blinking were purely a voluntary action but, for me anyway, I have no choice in the matter. I just *HAVE* to blink! It's impossible for me to not blink.

It's the physiological reasons for blinking that I'm more interested in. How on earth can some people NOT blink? There's no way I can go any more than 15-seconds wirhout tears forming and a feeling of stinging nettles being forced into my eyeballs!

Roy P Roy P, Tue, 5th Aug 2008

I can avoid blinking for long time, naturally my blink rate is rather low. Much lower then 15 or 20 per minute wonder what it correlated with. Cruel, Fri, 30th May 2014

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