How do we feel how people are watching us

That's why we feel like we're being watched

Working in peace - that is often simply impossible today. The noise outside, the many voices inside, rattling devices, clacking shoes, hectic rush and stress. And there is often something else as well: that Feeling of being watched all the time. Do you know that too? In the office, on the train, everywhere. A feeling that sometimes drives us crazy, but is actually an advantage ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Always there: That feeling of being watched

Some jobs have an unpleasant side effect. One that one can hardly avoid. The feelingto be watched. Always, always, permanently. In the university lecture hall in the first row or in the middle of the open-plan office - who doesn't get the uncomfortable feeling of being stared at?

The phenomenon is otherwise present in everyday life. When you sit on the train, stand at the traffic lights or cycle on the bike path. People are watching you, aren't they?

But where does it come from this feeling?

To be observed: imagination?

Nice Edward Titchener was so worried about it. The psychologist wrote an article almost 120 years ago with the title: The feeling of being stared at.

"We're all more or less nervous about what's going on in our backs," he wrote, making it clear with an anecdote.

“A friend of mine was learning to dance and he told me it was really painful for him, the dance teacher to turn your back and that it was a relief for him to be able to turn his back on the teacher. ”Titchener concluded that the phenomenon was largely a matter of fact imagination act.

Because suppose you are actually sitting in the first row in the lecture hall and have the feeling of being watched from all sides. The tension increases and an oppressive feeling arises in you. They begin to play with their fingers, look around conspiratorially. Your Quirks draw the attention of others to you with the result that you are now really being watched. A typical self-fulfilling prophecy, then.

Another psychologist, John Edgar Coover, came to the same conclusion as Titchener 15 years later. Coover first conducted a survey. So even knew one Majority of the population Back in the early 20th century, the feeling of being watched was recognized in it.

Coover picked ten of them for an experiment. The subjects had to face Cooper, however with his back turned. Then the psychologist took his cube and rolled - a total of 100 times.

The gaming device showed a odd number, Coover stared at the person for 15 seconds. At a even number he stopped staring. After each interval, the test person should now say whether he had felt observed or not.

Result: In 51.8 percent of the cases the dice showed an odd number. And in 50.2 percent of the cases, the participants were correct with their tip. The proof: everything total coincidence and pure imagination!

There are benefits in feeling watched

That the feeling of being watched, only ours own imagination rises seems obvious. But where does it come from?

The answer evidently leads us - once again - into the history of human evolution. And in his physiognomy.

"Our eyes have one like that extraordinary shapethat they are easy attract attention and reveal the direction of a glance, ”wrote Oxford neuroscientist Harriet Dempsey-Jones in an online post for The Conversation. “In fact, the structure of our eyes differs from almost all other species. The area in the eye that surrounds the pupil is very large and completely white. That makes it very easy to see where you are looking. "

In many animals, on the other hand, the pupil is larger. They can do that Survival advantage because enemy predators do not immediately recognize in which direction they are looking.

Our fear of strangers' eyes is - from an evolutionary point of view - a mechanism that protects us from physical danger. “A direct look can Dominance or danger signal, and if you classify something as a hazard, you'd be reluctant to miss it, ”said Colin Clifford, behavioral scientist at the University of New South Wales. “So if you assume the other person is looking at you, that's just them safer strategy.“

Glances: means of communication

The Fear of observation - formerly a pure defense against physical dangers, today also against social ones. Because someone who feels observed is more likely to adhere to conventions and rules in order not to sabotage the environment on which he is dependent. And he will act cautiously and prudently.

Sure: Anyone who thinks they are on the presentation plate in the office is not surfing the Internet or painting their nails. You only do that in an unobserved minute. True to the phrase:
Opportunity makes thieves. An opportunity for thieves logically arises when they know that they are not being watched.

“Basically, our eyes provide us with knowledge that something important happens"Says Dempsey-Jones. Above all, they are a means of communication, an extremely effective one at that. Looks as a weapon and tool to signal interest, consent, sexual attraction, or danger.

Mechanism of evolution

Ultimately, then, it appears to be a mechanism that evolution has given us. "We are programmed on it believing that others are staring at us, ”said Clifford.

Now all one has to do is find out, says Clifford, whether this is the behavior learned or genetically determined is. Then you would also know why people with autism can sometimes find it difficult to tell whether they are being watched and why people with social phobia are in return permanent paranoia Suffer…

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[Photo credit: Tero Vesalainen by]