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WHY WE BLINK: IT’S NOT WHY YOU THINK

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Posted by abeodbart October 7, 2009 at 8:52 am

Blink outside the box: RadioLab has a brilliant short podcast on the psychological role of blinks, based on a study that found that when watching a film our blinks are remarkably synchronised.

The programme dispels the myth that blinking serves only to keep our eyes wet as apparently studies have shown that we don’t blink any more or less in different humidities.

Instead, it explores a fascinating new study that found that blinks became synchronised when watching a film of another person, but not when watching landscapes or listening to stories.

Interestingly, blinks seems to be controlled so they occur at the start and end of meaning actions.

We know that blinking is also tied to some quite fundamental functions of the brain. For example, the higher the amount of spontaneous blinking you do, the higher the amount of dopamine you produce in the striatum, a deep brain area.

As always the RadioLab programme is gripping audio velvet. I really recommend some headphones and 15 minutes of undisturbed time to lose yourself.

This article taken from MindHacks where you’ll find all the relevant links.

COMMENTS
October 7, 2009 at 9:01 am

I couldn’t even concentrate on this article because I was so aware of my blinking…
Interesting.


October 7, 2009 at 9:20 am
Ross says:

Wow, that really supports something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I make animations, and for a long time i’ve noticed that using blinks at start and end actions really helps to bring a character to life, and give it a bit more believability.


October 7, 2009 at 9:22 am

So the more you blink the dopamine is produced!

Does that mean if you blink really fast it can induce a feeling of goodness and wellbeing?

Got to try that lol


October 7, 2009 at 9:42 am
jacqui says:

wow good job i didn’t blink or i might have missed this article


October 7, 2009 at 9:52 am
Jonathan says:

The great film editor Walter Murch (who worked on The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The English Patient et al.) wrote a book called “In the Blink of an Eye” setting out his theory that film editors should tend to cut when actors on screen blink, because this signifies the end of a thought. It’s pretty clear (to me at least) that he’s rationalising something that he’s found by experience in the cutting room: that cutting “on the blink” just feels right a lot of the time.


October 7, 2009 at 9:58 am
ReliegiousMarie says:

FInally…free drugs!


October 7, 2009 at 10:04 am
Niels says:

Years ago I’ve read about a research about this. One conclusion that remains in my memory is that psychopaths supposedly blink less often than us normal humans. Does this mean that their actions mean less to them?


October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am
Chris says:

@Mark: If I recall correctly, dopamine is involved in several different subsystems in the brain, including the motor system (that produces movement). It governs physical ticks and is implicated in Parkinson’s disease, for example. So, I suspect that it is the dopamine production that is the cause of the extra blinking, rather than the other way around. Worth a try though! :)


October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am
Francis says:

I thought we blinked to stop our eyes falling out…
(.)(.)
U
O


October 7, 2009 at 10:13 am
JayKay says:

Stop giving us such good things to read/listen to, please. I am trying to get some work done!


October 7, 2009 at 11:10 am
Verus says:

Those radiolab podcasts are breathtaking. I’ve listened to three or four in a row and they are so well produced! Thanks for the introduction.


October 7, 2009 at 11:22 am
Maya says:

The more SPONTANEOUS blinking, it says. Although, correlation does not prove causation. Perhaps you blink more because of a dopamine producing activity.

And here I was thinking I had listened to everything RadioLab ever produced. Thanks!


October 7, 2009 at 11:27 am

Please please please put the link to WNYC Radio Lab in the post – it is:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/

As a sound designer with some twenty or so years professional experience, I have to say that Jad’s sound design is awesome.

If you don’t listen to a word they say…

The audio is simply amazing!


October 7, 2009 at 11:34 am
Pippy says:

It’s not one-way traffic. Walter Murch, editor of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather Part III amongst others, wrote a book about this, called In the Blink of an Eye.


October 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

Anyone interested in this should probably check out the book “In the blink of an eye” by Walter Murch. Especially if you are in to film/animation/editing etc

In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing

It’s actually about 10 years old now, but is directly linked to the article above. Fascinating read, and a philosophy that underpins all of Walters editing.

Hope that’s of interest to someone :)


October 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm
kirsty mc c says:

Is that why it feels weird when you dont blink? I am accutely aware of when I dont blink when talking to people and have to force myself to blink because if you dont blink/ look away every now and then people get uncomfortable. I tend not to blink as much because I’m concentrating on what the person is saying and their face (might be when my best friend was deaf, I’m hearing and learnt sign from her to enable me to chat to her…. if I didnt watch her hands AND face I’d miss something). Its good though, I can tell when people I know are lying/ hiding something lol :D


October 7, 2009 at 12:45 pm
JayKay says:

Does Derren think that RET therapy might work; de-sensitising of events by rapid eye movements? I was thinking of trying this to help me erase the memory of shit auditions!


October 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm
Ashton says:

anyone who plays guitar hero will realise how little you blink during a game!


October 7, 2009 at 1:59 pm
Abhilasha says:

Dopamine has the chemical formula C6H3(OH)2-CH2-CH2-NH2


October 7, 2009 at 2:49 pm
Julian says:

This is really cool, I never even thought about it that much. It also explains why we don’t blink as much when zoning out, I suppose, you’re not concerned with matching anyone’s blinking, nor are we doing anything. I always wondered about that.


October 7, 2009 at 2:56 pm

i actually didnt blink once while reading that.sometimes, if i dont use my eyes, i can keep from blinking for over 2 mins


October 7, 2009 at 5:19 pm
Sheri says:

Same as Fiona ^ up there, i was focusing on my blinking too much and kept noticing when i blinked, how anoying haha :] x


October 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm
Nopke says:

Hm, I think I blink less than the standard .. That you blink less/more when you watch something that triggers yourself seems normal. Very nervous people can blink a lot (or hardly as well), or those too up. Dopamie … hm … doped with dopamine .. if possible ..

Working a bit too focussed behind the pc might prevend you from blinking enough as well. You stare sort of ..

You become very aware of the need to blink if you have a staring contest .. (who can stare the longest without laughing/speaking into someone’s eyes ). Ofcourse, you can numb yourself and block them out of your system .. that will bring normal blinking back.

Weird huh … how fast the blink goes .. you hardly see the quick going up and down .. unless you are tired .. then it goes sloooowwwww ….


October 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm
Rebecca says:

Radiolab! They’re really fantastic- one of the best things about public radio in the US. They did a show a few years ago on War of the Worlds that I highly, highly recommend.


October 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm
Helena says:

Wow, crazy stuff..
So theoretically, if people who blink more have more Dopamine.. Does that therefore mean diseases associated with higher levels of Dopamine mean increased blinking?
Oh, @Chris, I guess not :P
But more dopamine means you’re more likely to have symptoms like Hallucinations and whatnot doesn’t it?
This podcast sounds really interesting! :D


October 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm
Browny says:

This is interesting, sometimes when I’m on the train sat next to the window, I’m aware of light rapidly flickering through the trees, my blinking does not seem to correspond to the how bright the light is at the time. I wonder if it is programming my brain with 0 and 1 with each change in light.


October 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm
Konakona4 says:

Is it only me who found that whole…music while talking and the voices annoying? Guh such americanisation, can’t stand it! Just tell it to us straight =_= no fancy crap!


October 8, 2009 at 4:28 pm
Chris N. says:

this is really interesting. i’ve noticed this in animation, where a blink kind provides a “beat”, an emotional cue, a sort of period at the end of a conceptual sentence. neato.

Radiolab is a terrific show. we get it on our public radio station here as well.

another podcast I really enjoy and highly recommend is DIal A Stranger http://www.dialastranger.com/

from the website:

“We take questions from you, the listener, and attempt to find answers to them by asking strangers over the telephone. ”

basically they interview people using the questions that other listeners have left as a touchstone for the conversation. the results are always interesting, often funny or very touching. Anyone who wants to can leave a question, or sign up to be a “stranger” by leaving your #.


October 9, 2009 at 10:52 am
Bex says:

Dammit, you made me blink. Interesting stuff though, I always thought it was to stop them going all dry and prune-like, or something….


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