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Author Topic: What causes the sense of being looked at?  (Read 5779 times)

James Hodson

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« on: 13/12/2008 19:30:10 »
James Hodson  asked the Naked Scientists:

Hi gang!

Great show! I've been listening to you folks for ages, keep up the good work! Just had a question about perception.

I was wondering about the feeling of being watched in a public place. More specifically, when you turn around to see that someone is looking right at you. It seems that the change in focus in your environment occurs involuntarily, as if you're subconsciously reacting to something.

Is this just a case of remembering these occasions and not remembering the occasions when you turn around and see that somebody wasn't looking at you, or that your peripheral vision somehow perceives a human face looking in your direction? I was wondering if there had been any studies done on this, as I haven't heard of any.

Thanks!

James Hodson
Melbourne
Australia

What do you think?


 

Offline MonikaS

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #1 on: 14/12/2008 22:50:48 »
Here's my take on it
Knowing when someone is looking at you is a relic from the times when us human animals were still in the wild. That someone could have been a preditor, so knowing made a real difference to survival and thus the ability was kept in the human gene pool. This is no ESP, though, but the ability to pick up subtile clues from your environment. Small noises, small changes in your peripheral vision, they add up and give you a warning, so that the big bad sabretoothed tiger can't get you. ;D
And of course you remember successful detections of someone looking at you better than others where it didn't work. Given a lot of people around you, one or more of them are bound to look at you as well, when you turn.
Monika
 

Offline Don_1

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #2 on: 15/12/2008 07:39:08 »
Have you ever had the feeling you are being watched by someone and then realised you are not? Equally, have you ever been watched and known nothing about it? Have you ever had that 'burning ear' sensation only to find someone is talking about you? Have you ever found someone was talking about you and you were unaware?

Have you ever had that 'burning ear' sensation only to find that fag you put behind your ear wasn't properly extinguished and your ear is on fire?
 

Offline dentstudent

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #3 on: 15/12/2008 08:39:39 »
Have you ever had the feeling you are being watched by someone and then realised you are not? Equally, have you ever been watched and known nothing about it? Have you ever had that 'burning ear' sensation only to find someone is talking about you? Have you ever found someone was talking about you and you were unaware?

Have you ever had that 'burning ear' sensation only to find that fag you put behind your ear wasn't properly extinguished and your ear is on fire?

Quite. Have you ever counted all those times that someone actually was looking at you but you didn't realise? Confirmation bias, one thinks....(which has nothing to do with Catholics btw)
 

lyner

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #4 on: 15/12/2008 09:15:59 »
Has anyone conducted a fair test?
Without it the 'theory' is nonsense..
 

Offline dentstudent

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #5 on: 15/12/2008 09:24:23 »
There have been tests, but right now I'm damned if I can remember where etc. Or indeed whether they were "fair". But I think that this falls into the Psi category?
 

Offline Karen W.

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #6 on: 19/12/2008 09:22:29 »
I think its more then that.. even when it is some one behind you and you just get a sense there is someone there.. I think your senses  become heightened when you are alone and you feel the emptiness of the space you are in and when something moves into that space I think there is a change in the feel of the space around you.. perhaps sound or just the feeling of another presence in the room is something we all physically feel if we concentrate we probably hear subtle changes etc.. like Stuart says.. kind of a predator thing.. I do this a lot and very seldom am wrong when I feel like I need to turn around and that there is someone behind me or too close to my personal space without announcing themselves!


Kind of like after becoming a mom.. my senses became more acute to sounds I would not normally detect and my awareness of my surroundings became more intense.. sounds dumb but it really does happen if you pay attention you will notice this is true for most moms!
« Last Edit: 19/12/2008 09:25:40 by Karen W. »
 

Offline Alandriel

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #7 on: 19/12/2008 19:55:53 »
absolutely Karen..... not only do we hear a lot more and have our antennas out,
according to my daughter we also sprout eyes at the back of our heads too   :o

 ;D

 

Offline JnA

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #8 on: 19/12/2008 23:34:23 »
Being alone in the big wild world would not have been advantageous for humans.  I don't see what the mystery is.. heightening your awareness while potentially a target for food isn't too much of a stretch.

As for public places - if you are in a public place and you turn around the chances of someone watching you do that are rather high. A changed movement draws attention. The chances of you looking and locking eyes with a person becasue of this movement are also high. So you probably lock eyes with someone not becasue they were staring at you to begin with, but your movement drew their attention to you.

Mothers. They rock.. we all know that... and they are pretty amazing, no argument. But, much like evolution dropped the ball by not allowing us to grow a third arm for the first 18 months after childbirth, I don't think it allows us to develop extra senses. It does change our perception of survival. Suddenly the child's survival is more important than even your own.
 

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What causes the sense of being looked at?
« Reply #8 on: 19/12/2008 23:34:23 »

 

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