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There are times when we are on the bus, in a meeting or just in the street, there are people who stare at us. At that moment we think everything: that our fly is open, our shirt is inside out, and that they didn't like our shoes or, on the contrary, that we have attracted their attention positively in some aspect. Unless we decide to start a conversation with that person and ask him or her, it is unlikely that we will know what he or she was specifically observing. However, psychology has a number of insights that can help us glimpse the reasons for this awkward or sometimes flattering occurrence. When you see people staring at you, your first thought is why.
In that sense, this is a common occurrence in which we all participate. They say that people stare attentive to non-verbal language. That is, when someone stares at us it is because they need to get more information about us. Non-verbal language especially that of the face and eyes, provides a lot of information about the person's state of mind. The eyes in particular have a lot of relevant social information, which can help to deduce what is being thought. On the other hand, it may be that if we are doing something; for example, closing a bottle or looking for something in our purse, the person looking at us is trying to understand what we are doing and analyzing how we are doing it. Or, if they are looking at our hand gestures while we are talking.
In the same vein, some of us are a bit observant by nature and, after all, our main source of learning is the observation of others. Thus, another motivation we have for watching others has to do with our interest in learning. For example, fixing a bicycle puncture. A curious occurrence also takes place in this context. Suddenly, something inside us makes us feel that someone is staring at us. Apparently, there are two aspects of our evolution that have helped us to detect that someone is looking at us quickly. On the one hand, the physiognomy of the human eye itself. On the other, the adaptive and survival value of catching glances directed at us in order to escape from a possible threat.
Unlike many animals, the human eye has a very large sclera (the white part of the eyes). This allows us to better discriminate which way a person is looking, depending on the position of the pupil. Thus, even at great distances, we perceive very reliably whether someone is looking at us. Almost without consciously looking, thanks to our peripheral vision. Even though that look may be one of intimidation, admiration or compassion, the fact that we have detected it is still surprising to us. As if we had a sixth sense. Science has tried to find answers to this phenomenon known as "gaze perception" and, although there are no concrete results, it suggests that there is a complex neurological network behind this ability.
To conclude, there are several elements that combine: one has to do with the evolution of the human eye, another in how we depend on the interpretation of gazes in our development and communication as social beings and how it serves as a defense and survival mechanism. This is because humans are very sensitive to the looks of others. Well, human survival has come to depend much more on the cooperation and coordination of our efforts with those of others. As our communication skills have become more critical, biologists have suggested that the whites of our eyes evolved to enhance those skills. Even though we developed a complex spoken language, the gaze can express many things that language cannot.