Self

The Creepy Reason You Can Sense When Someone Is Staring At You

Photo: J Walters / Shutterstock
man staring off suspiciously

The feeling that somebody is watching you is unnerving. No clearer exhibit exists than Michael Jackson’s chorus in the song “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

His sense of being under constant surveillance leads to paranoia and an inability to be at peace. He’s plagued with an inexplicable feeling that someone always has their eyes on him.

Most of us won’t experience anything that extreme, but it’s highly likely that, at one point or another, you’ve had the feeling of being stared at. You may have even turned around to find it was true.

But there's actually a name for the sensation you're feeling, and it's called the psychic staring effect.

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What is the psychic staring effect?

The sense of being started at is called the psychic staring effect. Otherwise known as morphic resonance or scopaesthesia, the psychic staring effect is the theory that people can detect unseen staring by others.

Over time, there have been a number of experiments conducted to determine whether or not you can "feel" people staring at you.

The first study to determine if we can detect someone’s gaze without looking at them was conducted by psychologist Edward B. Titchener in 1898 after his students claimed they could feel when they were being looked at.

Skeptical about their assertions, Titchener set out to disprove them, suggesting that when they felt they were being watched, they turned in the direction they thought the gaze was coming from.

Titchener believed that sudden movement got the suspected starer’s attention, and they made eye contact, confirming in the students’ minds that they were, in fact, being stared at.

His dismissal of telepathy telling people when they were being stared at was widely accepted until almost a century later, when biochemist Rupert Sheldrake conducted his own experiments.

Sheldrake believed Titchener’s students were right and enlisted hundreds of subjects for his own study.

He found that blindfolded students had a hit rate of about 55% when detecting someone staring at them. Though the effect was small, it was above the 50% correct rate that one would expect if everyone just guessed whether or not they were being stared at.

Sheldrake, considered a "fringe scientist," received much skepticism, with people pointing out various flaws in his research, including a revelation that one of his participants was under the influence of MDMA.

A social psychologist at Lake Forest College, Ilan Shrira, called Sheldrake’s experiment “nonsense,” and credited peripheral vision with giving participants the feeling they were being watched.

Sheldrake introduced the theory of morphic resonance, the idea that there are telepathic connections or energy fields of information that transfer signals, letting us know when we have caught another person’s attention.

In his studies, Sheldrake relied on the laws of nature, like gravitational force and perhaps even electromagnetic attraction, to back his findings. This, he claims, is the reason people are able to notice that they are being looked at without actually seeing it.

A TikToker named Bruno Gomez further explained the theory of morphic resonance.

   

   

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In his video, Gomez explains that the mind extends beyond the body by way of energy fields. These fields interact with the environment using either attention or intention.

Attention, or observation, is attached to the feeling of being stared at. This means your own attention to something is influencing it from a distance. Your consciousness and its related fields are interacting with theirs.

Intention, also known as telephone telepathy, is similar to the Law of Attraction. Both are directed thoughts where you think about someone and then they manifest.

One example is when a person crosses your mind and, moments later, they call you. Or, when you hear a song in your head and then, lo and behold, it starts playing on the radio. It’s an energetic connection.

Another TikTok account called The Psychics House, run by Anthony Rajković and Ryan Curtis, shared their own take on the phenomenon.

In this video, Rajković explains that Titchener’s results were just random but have been replicated time and time again.

   

   

He, too, believes that the feeling of being stared at is a result of first seeing it in your peripheral vision, then getting the message in your mind, and then, ultimately, the feeling.

To demonstrate that this can also happen with sound, he asks if viewers were thinking about Ace of Base’s song “I Saw the Sign” before revealing it was playing at a very low volume in the background.

Is the psychic staring effect actually real?

These two conflicting studies, along with many additional theories, have naturally led to opposing views on whether or not people can feel when they are being stared at.

The scientific community is split, but psychologists estimate that 60-90% of people are under the belief that they can tell without looking when they are being watched.

However, a Gallup poll did find that half of adults in the United States believe in extrasensory perception (ESP). So, really anything is possible!

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.

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