Weird Things Happen When You Stare Into Someone’s Eyes For 10 Minutes
Staring into someone’s eyes for as little as 10 seconds can be an intense experience of connection, or one of discomfort.
So what happens when you look into a person’s eyes for 10 minutes?
Well, things can get weird. Really weird.
A new Italian study finds that when people look into each other’s eyes for a long period of time, they often experience symptoms of dissociation — including feelings of detachment from one’s body and from reality — and full-on hallucinations.
For the study, 20 healthy young adult volunteers were paired up and asked to stare, emotionless, into each others’ eyes as they sat in a dimly lit room (which the researchers chose because the lighting enhances facial features). As a control, the 20 other participants were asked to sit in the same room and stare at a black wall for 10 minutes. None of the participants were told what the researchers were testing for.
Afterwards, the participants filled out questionnaires about the experience. The self-reports revealed that the people who engaged in interpersonal staring were very likely to experience symptoms of dissociation, including a loss of connection with reality, a feeling of time dragging on, and changes in sound and color perception.
What’s more, 90 percent of the participants reported experiencing hallucinations during interpersonal staring. They reported seeing changes and distortions to the person’s face, sometimes seeing the person’s face morph into a monster or animal, into their own face or into the face of a friend or relative. People usually experienced two to four hallucinations in a 10-minute period.
The people who stared at the wall also experienced some symptoms of dissociation, but they did not have any hallucinations.