Blinking is one of the human body’s fastest and recurrent facial actions. You probably know that blinking eyes is important for the health of the eyes and more specifically for lubrication of the eyeball. But did you know that it may even affect your first impression or your everyday conversations?
A person blinks around 13,000 times a day on average. Typically, this is far more than needed by the eyes for lubrication purposes. So, why do we blink so much?
According to scientists on this matter, blinking may serve another purpose that they have not been able to uncover yet. You will know really focus on how many times the person you are talking to is blinking, but some researchers have argued it does make a difference.
How Can Actions Make a Difference?
It is well-known that your expressions, body language, and other certain movements can be used by another person to derive a number of meanings. For instance, during interviews, the committee of people conducting the process will take note of just not what you are saying but a whole lot of things.
A new study also adds blinking to the list of actions that may affect a conversation. Though you may perceive it subconsciously, blinking may change your thoughts, levels of trusts, and the way of engagement in the conversation.
The research was done at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. The results of the study are present in the journal PLOS One.
Read the study here.
How Was the Study Conducted?
A conversation requires the attention of two or more people. One is usually talking while the other(s) is listening and observing. Amidst this process, the listener often performs specific actions along with short verbal phrases.
For example, nodding and saying things like ‘hmm’ or ‘mhm’ indicates that the other person is listening. During this whole time, eye contact is also common. Hence, the researchers of this study believed that actions linked with the eyes, particularly blinking, play a role as well.
The team initially put forward a theory that it was the duration of blinks that would play the main role if they make a difference in interaction.
For the experiments, the researchers recruited people and used virtual reality. Each participant had a conversation with a virtual avatar. This avatar would ask questions like ‘How was your week’ and would nod along with the answers.
In some of the responses of the avatar, the duration of the blinking was shorter and in others, it was longer. Since these blinks were similar to those in a normal setting, it did not look like anything unusual.
What Were the Results?
Upon questioning by the researchers, it was found that the participants did not really notice the differences in blinking duration of the avatars. However, it was also seen that they subconsciously did find a difference.
When the avatars blinked for a longer time, the answers coming from the participants were fairly shorter. This shows that the theory put forward by the researchers was true and that blinking did, in fact, act as a nonverbal sign.
According to the researchers “Our findings show that one of the subtlest of human movements — eye blinking — appears to have a surprising effect on the coordination of everyday human interaction.”
This also shows how the smallest of actions can affect a whole conversation. Furthermore, it highlights that there is a lot more to learn regarding physiological responses in humans.