Staring into someone’s eyes for a prolonged period of time has the ability to affect our consciousness and cause hallucinations.
This is a recent discovery made by vision researcher Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino in Italy.
Giovanni is not new to this field of research, in early 2015 he recruited 50 volunteers and got them to sit in a dimly lit room and stare at their reflections in a mirror for 10 minutes. Many of the volunteers started to experience altered states of consciousness in less than 1 minute.
According to the feedback received their faces started to change shape and warp, creating the appearance of monsters, animals, and in some cases even deceased family members; this phenomenon has been named the “strange-face illusion.” The results of this experiment seem to intensify when Giovanni swapped the mirror for another person.
In his most recent experiment, Caputo paired up 40 young adults. They were sat in chairs in a dimly lit room and placed one meter apart. The lighting was set up so they were able to pick up facial features, but the color perception was diminished.
The groups were split up into 2, with half of the pairs sat back to back, this was done to make sure any effects were not as a result of expectation. The other group sat face to face opposite one another, gazing into each other’s eyes. The subjects were not told the true nature of the study and that it would be a meditative experience.
After they had stared at each other for 10 minutes, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire explaining what they had experienced, this revealed some really interesting results.
According to the British Psychological Society, the participants that faced each other experienced a higher level of attenuated color intensity than those who did not, with noises seeming more intense. There was also a feeling that time slowed down and they felt spaced out. Also, just under 90% said their partner’s face appeared deformed, 75% observed monstrous beings, and 15% said they saw relative’s faces emerge onto their partner’s face.
Caputo says these sensations indicate symptoms of dissociation.
This is the term used to describe a disconnection with reality. He also found that dissociation correlated with a facial deformity, but could not explain the hallucinations that caused subjects to see strange faces.
The hypothesis is these hallucinations, which have been named “strange-face apparitions,” may be a result of returning to reality after entering the dissociative state aroused by the lack of sensory stimulation.
But that is currently only a theory and seems to contrast with another possible explanation Caputo has put forward.
When staring at a single point for an extended period of time, the features in the periphery start to disappear, this is known as “Troxler Fading”. However, this would not explain having strange things appear and we would also expect facial features to gradually disappear.
Scientific American added, when visual information is missing, the brain fills in the gaps based on prior experience or expectation. There is still a lot that is unknown about this interesting phenomenon, and Caputo agrees that his work is still in its infancy.
So what causes these hallucinations when staring into someone’s eyes is still unknown and while it would be interesting to discover, maybe there are some things that modern science just cannot explain. Much love, Luke.
Originally appeared on: TRUTH THEORY