Hints by blinking: Our blinking can tell a lot

The look of the eye says more than words

"You can't not communicate", Paul Watzlawick already stated in his basic rules about human communication. This thesis is also shown in a recent study on blinking. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics investigated how participants react when their conversation partner blinks at either short or longer intervals.

A current study by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics suggests that the pauses between eye strikes can influence the reaction of the interlocutor. The results suggest that longer pauses between the blinking suggest to the other person that you understand what is being told. Short blink breaks are more likely to signal a lack of understanding. The study results were recently published in the specialist journal "Plos one".

Non-verbal communication with the blow of your eyes

A person blinks ten to 15 times per minute. Despite the frequency of blinking, hardly anyone is aware of this movement - and yet we seem to be communicating something to our counterpart with the frequency of blinking. Talking behavior is influenced, among other things, by how often we blink, according to the research team led by study leader Paul Hömke. Communication tests showed that frequent blinking led to longer responses from the other person, and long blinking breaks tended to encourage shorter answers.

Course of the study

The Hömke team let 35 participants communicate with computer-generated interlocutors without the test subjects knowing what the study was about. The digital interlocutors, called avatars by the researchers, asked the participants certain questions such as: "What did you do on the weekend?"

The unconscious feedback about the blow of your eyes

While the participants responded, the avatars responded with either short or long pauses between the eyes. It turned out that the answers were on average several seconds shorter if the avatar took long pauses between the eyes. On the other hand, the answers were longer if more eyes were blinked.

What the look of the eye conveys

The linguistics researchers have a theory of how blinking influences the course of the conversation. Long eyelashes would rather give the conversation partner the feeling of having been understood, which tends to lead to a short execution. Short breaks, on the other hand, suggest that you have not understood what has been said, which means that the other person tells a more detailed version. According to the researchers, this is a new factor for mutual understanding in everyday social interaction. (vb)

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