Looking white people in the eye
Stress and fatigue may also be a cause. Kennedy would experience great danger because of his sanpaku condition. For thousands of years, people of the Far East have been looking into each other's eyes for signs of this dreaded condition. Any sign of sanpaku meant that a man's entire system — physical, physiological and spiritual — was out of balance.
He had committed sins against the order of the universe and he was therefore sick, unhappy, insane, what the West has come to call "accident prone". The condition of sanpaku is a warning, a sign from nature, that one's life is threatened by an early and tragic end. It is also briefly referenced in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer , as well as in Michael Franks ' song "Sanpaku".
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In one study conducted at a science museum, psychologists recently tried to establish the preferred length of eye contact. They concluded that, on average, it is three seconds long and no one preferred gazes that lasted longer than nine seconds.
The drama of realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting Credit: Getty Images. Another documented effect of mutual gaze may help explain why that moment of eye contact across a room can sometimes feel so compelling.
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Perhaps, in the right context, when everyone else is busy talking to other people, this effect adds to the sense that you and the person looking back at you are sharing a special moment. This has been interpreted as a form of subconscious social mimicry, a kind of ocular dance, and that would be the more romantic take.
Letter from a Region in My Mind
That is not to say that pupil dilation has no psychological meaning. In fact, going back at least to the s, psychologists have studied the way that our pupils dilate when we are more aroused or stimulated in a physiological sense , whether by intellectual, emotional, aesthetic or sexual interest.
This has led to debate about whether faces with more dilated pupils sometimes taken as a sign of sexual interest are perceived by onlookers to be more attractive. Even staring at a portrait painting's eyes triggers the kind of brain activity associated with social cognition Credit: Getty Images.
Either way, centuries prior to this research, folk wisdom certainly considered dilated pupils to be attractive. But when you look another person deep in the eye, do not think it is just their pupils sending you a message.
Yet another important eye feature are limbal rings: the dark circles that surround your irises. Recent evidence suggests that these limbal rings are more often visible in younger, healthier people, and that onlookers know this on some level, such that heterosexual women looking for a short-term fling judge men with more visible limbal rings to be more healthy and desirable. Look into the eys of a gorilla, and you are aware you are being scrutinised by another intellect Credit: Getty Images.
Looking White People in the Eye by Sherene H. Razack
All these studies suggest there is more than a grain of truth to the old adage about the eyes being a window to the soul. They say that our eyes are the only part of our brain that is directly exposed to the world. His next book, Personology, will be published in You might also like: Why athletes need a quiet eye How the eyes betray your thoughts Can carrots really improve eyesight?