Your Eyelid Activity Can Tell If You're Daydreaming

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How frequently your eyes blink can reveal whether you are really paying attention or if you're daydreaming.

A study led by a Canadian cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Smilek of the University of Waterloo, suggests that when your mind wanders your eyes blink more, thus creating a small physical barrier between you and the external world.

When I first read this study, I thought wow that's pretty obvious but my assumption was that when we get lost in a thought or not paying attention to the stuff that's going on right in front of us - our eyes should blink less.

Like when you stare unblinkingly at a wall or a space in the distance, just spacing out when you're bored. I don't know why but I always thought that the eyes would blink less.

So anyway, the study involved fifteen subjects who were asked to read a passage of a book on a computer screen.

I tried experimenting on myself, which was a failure because how could I possibly be lost in a daydream and still be receptive about my eyelid activity at the same time!

Count on me on being a complete fool, I shine every time.

Thankfully, the real experiment had a sensor tracking eye movements that include blinks and the word that they were looking at.

The computer beeped at random intervals and the subjects reported whether they'd been paying attention to what they were reading or whether their minds were wandering -- which included thinking about earlier parts of the text.

The results -- reported in the Psychological Science journal -- reveal that the subjects blinked more when their minds were wandering than when they were focused on the task.

"What we suggest is that when you start to mind-wander, you start to gate the information even at the sensory endings -- you basically close your eyelids so there's less information coming into the brain," says Smilek.

The results of the study is said to change the way scientists think about the mind. Instead of looking at these mental processes as separate from the body, they're looking at them as parts acting together.

Which begs the a nagging question here: Why did they think it was otherwise? Before we know that something's off the kilter with the mind, isn't the behavior of the person that one often notices first?

Smilek goes on to say that the mind doesn't ignore the world all by itself; the eyelids help.

It's nice that he has evidence to back up this statement but honestly, even without the study, it's pretty darn clear that our bodies will act in a way that will reflect - Gee this is boring, Imma go think about what to eat tonight.

To be able to notice that something's boring, the eyelids can't do this alone. The brain receives signals from the eyes and the bored person starts to lose his attention and goes on daydreaming.

It is a little strange to say that the mind doesn't ignore the world on its own; that the eyelids help -- like as if the freaking eyelids have their own separate intelligence that make decisions independent from the input coming from the control center of the brain that gets intel from our eyeballs.

If Smilek can say that the eyelids help the mind to wander. Then I can say that the eyeballs refuse to go on reading because the person that has the eyeballs can't see because the eyelids are closing too frequently.

Image Credit:
Reaching Big Eyes Painting at
Etude at
Dreamy Eyes at

shanaz@RS | 9:44 PM | Labels:

You Might Also Like