Staring Into Someone's Eyes For 10 Minutes Is The Same As Getting High

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Staring Into Someone's Eyes For 10 Mins Is Like Getting High

Imagine relaxing in bed with your significant other, staring deeply into their eyes, and then all of a sudden they change into a monster. Not only is it unexpected, but you probably think your mind is playing tricks on you.

But can staring into someone's eyes for 10 minutes really make you feel like you just did LSD or are hallucinating?

Eye contact helps us express many different feelings. It can foster intimacy and a connection. But for a prolonged period of time, it can cause problems.

The idea is, "When you make direct eye contact with someone, you temporarily become disconnected from the rest of your environment or natural surroundings. This is because when we stare at a focal point for a prolonged period of time, details in your peripheral gradually begin to disappear."

This is something called Troxler's fading phenomenon. And it can absolutely can actually happen. When we stare into someone's eyes, our sight is solely focused on them, leaving any surrounding space, or "reality," behind.

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A 2015 study in Psychiatry Research found that "staring into someone's eyes for 10 minutes can induce hallucinations, from seeing distorted faces to monsters." 

To figure out why this happens, Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo conducted an experiment in which a group of 40 volunteers were paired up.

Half of the pairs were instructed to sit face-to-face and then stare into each other's eyes for ten minutes, without showing any emotion; the other half were told to sit back-to-back and stare at a wall.

The results of the group of pairs facing each other were shocking.


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In terms of hallucinations, "90 percent of the paired volunteers reported seeing changes to the face of the person they were staring at, with 90 percent admitting they saw their partner's face appear deformed, 75 percent saw monstrous beings, and 15 percent even saw traits of a relative's face appear on their partner."

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So, why does this happen? Why do people experience hallucinations when staring into someone's eyes for 10 minutes or more?

Caputo believes that these hallucinations "are a consequence of coming back to 'reality' after experiencing an altered state of consciousness caused by the lack of sensory stimulation."

Caputo further explains that these hallucinations can occur because, "the brain snaps back to reality after zoning out and the mind transmits subconscious thoughts onto the face of the other person.”

If our eyes aren't stimulated by a different scene after a certain period of time, our unconscious brings buried images into consciousness.  

Staring into someone's eyes can heighten intimacy, but it can also allow you to project subconscious images onto the person you're staring at. So, don't just stare at each other — put some thought into your gaze so you don't risk zoning out and unleashing your inner demons.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in September 2015 and was updated with the latest information.

Stacy Narine is a regular contributor to YourTango. She has her B.A. in English and is in the M.A. program in Literature at Seton Hall University.

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