Blinking eyes `indicate not only mind, but body wandering too`

Blinking eyes during a discussion usually indicate that one`s mind is wandering. Now, a new study says it`s not just the mind; it`s one`s body, too.

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2010, 17:47 PM IST

Washington: Blinking eyes during a
discussion usually indicate that one`s mind is wandering. Now,
a new study says it`s not just the mind; it`s one`s body, too.

Researchers, led by Daniel Smilek at the University of
Waterloo have carried out the study and found that when one`s
mind wanders, parts of brain which process external goings-on
become less active.

For the study, the researchers analysed how people pay
attention and don`t -- they looked at how often people blink
when their mind wanders.

Fifteen volunteers read a passage from a book on a
computer. While they read, a sensor tracked the eye movements,
including blinks and what word they were looking at.

At random intervals, the computer beeped and the
subjects reported whether they`d been paying attention to what
they were reading or whether their minds were wandering, which
included thinking about earlier parts of the text.

The participants blinked more when their minds were
wandering than when they were on task, the findings revealed.

"What we suggest is that when you start to mind
-wander, you start to gate the information even at the sensory
endings -- you basically close your eyelid so there`s less
information coming into the brain," Smilek said.

This is part of a shift in how scientists are thinking
about the mind, he added.

"Psychologists are realising that you can`t think
about these mental processes, like attention, separately from
the fact that the individual`s brain is in a body, and the
body`s acting in the world," he said.

The findings have been published in the `Psychological
Science` journal.

PTI