If you really want to freak yourself out, stare into someone’s eyes for 10 minutes
Researchers had test subject stare into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes. The subjects hallucinated and reached an altered state of consciousness.
An Italian psychologist working out of the University of Urbino has made a bizarre discovery. If you take two people and have them stare into each others’ eyes uninterrupted for 10 minutes, they will reach an altered state of consciousness, potentially leading to hallucinations and out of body experiences.
The experiment, led by Giovanni Caputo, featured 20 subjects split into pairs. Each subject was told to stare into their partner’s eyes. The room was kept at medium light – bright enough to clearly make out a face one meter away, but dark enough that the rest of the room faded away. A control group waited in a similar room, but the subjects didn’t stare at anyone.
After the ten minutes were up, the subjects then completed a questionnaire that focused on any dissociative symptoms they may have felt.
According to Science Alert, “disassociation” in this case refers to the psychological classification that covers a range of experiences, all stemming from the sense of being detached from the subject’s immediate surroundings. That can include memory loss, distorted colors, or any sense that the world isn’t real.
This feeling can be brought on by several factors, ranging from trauma to drug use to staring at someone for a length of time. That last one is new.
The test subjects reported significant dissociative experiences, in some cases extreme experiences. Some reported unexpected sound volume, while others claimed that colors faded. Those were the minor incidents though.
“On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 percent of the eye-staring group agreed that they’d seen some deformed facial traits, 75 percent said they’d seen a monster, 50 percent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner’s face, and 15 percent said they’d seen a relative’s face,” Caputo wrote.
The reasons for this are down to “neural adaptation.” When you stare at something that doesn’t move for long enough, it will start to fade from view as your neurons lose focus. As you blink and move your eyes involuntarily, those neurons begin to refocus on the stimulation, and the brain fills in the gaps.
Our brains do so based on our experiences and expectations. According to an article in Scientific American regarding this, the results regarding facial recognition can be very odd.
If you are hoping to freak yourself out but don’t have a partner willing to let you stare at them from a meter away for ten minutes, you can try another method. In 2010, Caputo ran a similar experiment with 50 volunteers each staring into a mirror for 10 minutes.
People freaked out.
“The participants’ descriptions included huge deformations of their own faces; seeing the faces of alive or deceased parents; archetypal faces such as an old woman, child or the portrait of an ancestor; animal faces such as a cat, pig or lion; and even fantastical and monstrous beings,” Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik wrote in Scientific American.
“All 50 participants reported feelings of ‘otherness’ when confronted with a face that seemed suddenly unfamiliar. Some felt powerful emotions.”
The experience was more intense with a partner, but if you are curious, if you want to experience an altered state of consciousness, give it a go.