What causes us to experience these intense feelings and visions by doing something as simple as eye gazing? Why does verbal communication all of a sudden become so difficult when we make eye contact? Scientists from Kyoto University decided to study this ever-growing phenomenon.
What Is Eye Gazing?
Eye gazing is the practice of simply looking into another being’s eyes. You could gaze into the eyes of a stranger, a family member, an animal, or a romantic partner. The eyes are often referred to as the gateway to the soul, meaning they can be used as a tool to look beyond the physical world and into the spiritual. While looking into another person’s eyes, it’s common for people to experience intense visions or see non-physical matter such as auras.
Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo researched eye gazing and found that it can induce a drug-free altered state of consciousness. 90% of the participants in his study claimed they saw deformed facial features, 50% said they saw their own appearance in their partner’s face, and 15% said they saw a relative’s face.
One explanation for these experiences is neural adaptation. Our neurons can slow down and even completely stop their response to stimulation that is constant. This happens when you stare at anything — your perception changes until you blink or something within the scene changes. However, this does not account for the more spiritual aspects of eye-gazing, the powerful feelings people report, or why so many people find it so difficult.
Scientists Proved How Eye Gazing Affects Our Communication
Numerous people find it difficult to look into another person’s eyes, especially while conversing. Not making eye contact is widely frowned upon and it’s often associated with shyness, a fear of emotions, disrespect, and other cultural or social constraints. We look at so many different things every day, so why do we find it difficult to look into another person’s eyes?
Scientists from Kyoto University in Japan studied this by observing a group of volunteers staring at different faces. The participants would have to either make eye contact or look away while simultaneously playing word association games.
Participants were asked to identify verbs associated with particular words; for example, the word “knife” could be associated with cut or stab. When making eye contact, the participants had greater difficulty finding words, specifically when more difficult word associations were involved. For example, “hand” could be considered a more difficult word because there are many verbs associated with it, including write, play, point, wave, and so on.
“Although eye contact and verbal processing appear independent, people frequently avert their eyes from interlocutors during conversation. This suggests that there is interference between these processes,” the study explains.
The study showed that making eye contact does take cognitive effort to maintain and that there is a relationship between spoken word/mental thought and eye contact. If someone looks away while they’re talking to you, ignore your ego by thinking it’s rude; their cognitive system could just be overloaded.
Perhaps that’s why when you’re practicing eye gazing, no words are needed. The non-verbal communication that takes place is much more powerful than any spoken word, so it’s simply unnecessary.
If you’re someone who has difficulty making eye contact, know that you’re not alone and that science even has an explanation to justify it! However, don’t let your discomfort discourage you from practicing eye gazing. If you’re not comfortable enough yet to practice it with a partner, try practicing it on your own in the mirror.