General Question

nebule's avatar

Why do we stare through things?

Asked by nebule (16366 points ) December 6th, 2009

You know when you just find yourself staring into space…staring through things, through objects, unable to shift your gaze, even though you’re not staring at anything in particular? Is it tiredness?

It seems really difficult to move your eyes… I seem to be doing this a lot more recently and don’t know why… it’s accompanied by a definite bodily desire not to move anywhere…

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33 Answers

warpling's avatar

because deep down inside we all wish we had laser eyes at times…

rangerr's avatar

I always assumed it was because we were focusing on our thoughts and not the world around us.

sevenfourteen's avatar

usually when I’m doing it I’m daydreaming so I never want to move cause that would mean I’d have to come back to reality

amnorvend's avatar

I usually do it when I’m pondering something internally. After all, you have to do something with your eyes over that time. I suppose an alternative would be to close your eyes, which might be even weirder.

pjanaway's avatar

I always stare, I do it when people talk to me the most, always looks like I’m not listening, which probably is the case half the time. :)

I know for a fact when I’m staring at something, I’m not actually staring at anything in particular. Its just me being wierd. :P

gymnastchick729's avatar

Because you are momentarily visiting Nirvana…with the BHUDDA!!!

rasputin6xc's avatar

I do it when I’m tired or thinking deeply.

warpling's avatar

I do it when I am focusing instead of closing my eyes, although often I’ll pull my eyes out of focus on purpose when “zoning out”

Medlang's avatar

as @rangerr said, I always assumed it was because we were focusing on our thoughts and not the world around us.

wundayatta's avatar

Wait! You guys can stare through things????

Can anyone teach me that trick?

RAMesesII's avatar

Sometimes what we’re thinking about occupies our thoughts so much, the brain no longer focuses on other things.

So your body ‘zones out’, in a sort of ‘sleep state’ physically. Deep breathing, unfocused/staring eyes, muted hearing, etc.
This is so the mind can fully focus on whatever it was thinking about.

It’s like a filter kicking in to make sure the ‘water’ is clean coming through.

I’m not an expert on this though, this is just from observation and experience.

DancingMind's avatar

When you’re thinking about something really deeply, so you’re seeing through your mind’s eye rather than your real eyes, so you’re looking at something, and see it but don’t really, yeah? That’s what happens to me…
Or when your brains just taking a break. Sometimes I’ll have moments when my mind’s totally blank, I’m not thinking of anything, but it’s so relaxing! Kinda like meditation, and when I snap to, I can think better somehow.

RAMesesII's avatar

@daloon
Simple. Imagine you’re looking ‘past’ that object. Try to look at the wall behind someone’s head, not their actual head.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

It happens to me when I’m tired. Or sometimes when I’m bored, I try to see if I can get the thing I’m staring at to double. When that happens, it sort of looks as if you’re looking through the object, which in turn led me to believe I had “see-through” vision when I was small.

Val123's avatar

You’re having a seizure. Not to scare you, but there it is! (JK, however, sometimes, especially in kids, losing focus for a second and just staring can be a sign of a very mild seizure…..)

wundayatta's avatar

@RAMesesII You mean you can see the wall through the person’s head? Or are you just pretending? I though people had some kind of x-ray vision. ;-)

Val123's avatar

@daloon I can see through barn walls….

rangerr's avatar

@Val123 Holy cow. I combined that into “balls”

pjanaway's avatar

“I see dead people”

Val123's avatar

@rangerr You are much too young for such things! Now stop!

rangerr's avatar

@Val123 Ahem. I’m in college.

Val123's avatar

@rangerr Well. Um.. Stick to biology!

majorrich's avatar

Ah, the 1000 yard stare.. Sometimes I can work up a drool too. Especially at lengthy staff briefings that have nothing o do with me.

filmfann's avatar

The eyes shift into a position to concentrate on a thought. It’s connected to the same process you can tell when someone is lying. Check it out

wundayatta's avatar

@Val123 Uh oh. Better hide that Playboy hidden in the hay.

Seriously, one summer when I was 17 and working on a dairy farm, bringing hay bales up into the loft, I found a ten or fifteen year old Playboy hidden behind a beam. I had a bit of fun with that until we had filled the barn with hay.

dogkittycat's avatar

When I’m trying to figure something out I’ll do that and when I’m just plain bored I’ll listen to my ipod and stare off into the distance My sister swears I’m crazy, funny thing is she actually thinks I care.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, I think in most cases it’s not related to tiredness. For most activities that require conscious processing, the human brain is actually not capable of multitasking. We can only focus on one thing at a time. Very often when we seem to be unable to shift our gaze we are thinking about something (unrelated to what we are seeing) very hard. We might be brooding. We might be searching our memory. We might be evaluation the solution to a problem. So while we are thinking, the unconscious mind is handling all sensory input. As long as there’s nothing new or important our midbrain leaves the cortex alone. But we can shift our gaze in instant when certain neurons send an all-out alarm. For example when there’s a strange shadow on the left that looks like an attacking dog.

nebule's avatar

aaaahhh see!! I was just waiting til @mattbrowne turned up and now all is clear… I’m a perfectly normal persistent thinker…!!! I didn’t know that about multi-tasking…how fascinating! Anyway, the brooding thing sounds about right…. I’m just glad I’m not completely insane…

@filmfann great answer btw! and interesting when applied to myself in my counselling sessions where I do tend to make specific eye movements up, down and sideways… thank you x

mattbrowne's avatar

@lynneblundell – Multitasking works when we do 1 conscious thing and several unconscious things at the same time. For example taking a phone call in a car while driving with the kids arguing on the back seats. Our unconscious mind tells us that the flow of traffic is smooth, the noise of the kids doesn’t suggest anything dangerous, so we keep talking on the phone. Now if all of a sudden a pedestrian appears out of nowhere or the argument in the back turns violent with shrieks getting louder we shift our attention after telling the caller to hold on. But we can’t stay on the phone, evade the pedestrian and settle the argument at the same time.

Some research suggests that the number of unconscious parallel processing running on a female brain CPU is higher than that of men. I think my brain is a Intel Dual Core at most while my wife features a Quad Core. Her cache also seems larger as does the GHz operating frequency.

SirGoofy's avatar

Just answering your question about staring…privately. Hope you don’t mind. I don’t really stare at anyone, but I do attempt to burn a hole through them sometimes. Is this staring?

rangerr's avatar

@SirGoofy That wasn’t private..?

nebule's avatar

hmmmm…interesting…..

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