Have you ever felt that someone is behind you but nobody is at home? Have you been harassed by the insistent gaze of a stranger when you walk down the street? Both cases turn into distressing episodes that you do not explain yourself, because the person you feel lurks does not even exist ...
While feeling looks is a recurring element in horror films, this is a phenomenon that happens in daily life. Even-and it sure has happened to you-it happens when we see the person we like very carefully and "out of nowhere" turns around. Science has an explanation for this and has been released by BBC Future.
According to these investigations, our frontal cortex gives us only the information that we should keep in mind. That is, seeing an image, it gives us all the data we need to translate it cerebrally and gain knowledge from it. Right now that you are reading this, your brain sends you direct information from the screen, but also from everything you have around you; he perceives much more than we are aware of.
So, why do we feel someone's gaze even if we do not see it directly? Part of the explanation lies in a phenomenon discovered by the researcher Larry Weiskrant in 1974. He named it a "blind" phenomenon. According to their research, patients who were blind could still respond to external stimuli. That is, although they did not see, they did perceive phenomena outside of them.
However, the answer as to why we felt glances behind us, was resolved years later. This happened at the University Hospital of Geneva, Switzerland. The patient studied, also blind, whose initials were known as TD, revealed something surprising.
"The study consisted of asking DT" to look at "pictures of faces that had their eyes directed forward, looking directly at the viewer and others who had their eyes turned to the side, looking away from the viewer".
What happened left everyone stunned: DT had been able to differentiate the pictures that looked directly at him and those that did not. Alan J Pegna, the researcher in charge of the study, examined his brain activity by means of an fMRI scanner. What he found was that the amygdala (a brain region that regulates emotions such as fear) was more active when the patient perceived the images that "looked" at him.
After these findings, the scientists deduced that our brain continues to capture information from the outside, although we do not consciously realize it and even though we do not even see it. This does not happen only with those who have a lack of vision. According to various investigations, peripheral vision is responsible for receiving extra information that we are not aware of. That is to say, while we are busy in the daily tasks of day to day, our brain performs dozens of tasks without warning us.
This can well be explained by the evolutionary process and by the enormous need that our body has to keep us safe. You have to be aware of all threatening external elements; an insistent look in our person, could be, so it sends the signal to our brain and that is how we notice.
Although this brain skill is vital in high-risk situations, it is also true that it has helped us even to fall in love and to build an imaginary world based on what we do not see completely.
The results of this investigation open up many more questions than answers: what other things will our brain be able to capture without our even suspecting it? How much of that information will not condition our actions and our way of seeing the world? It continues being a mystery.