Have you ever had the experience when, stopped in gridlock traffic, you look over at the person in the car next to you and they immediately meet your eyes, even though they were staring straight ahead and you were out of their peripheral vision?
There’s a name for this: It's called scopaesthesia, or gaze detection, where people can feel eyes on them, even from behind. It’s been a buzzy phenomenon in parapsychology because some think it’s a sixth sense, like telepathy, yet no study has actually proven it exists.
In 1898, psychologist Edward B. Tichner reported that some of his students could feel being stared at from behind and also felt a “tingling” sensation on the backs of their necks. He thought that it wasn’t telepathy, but more so that a second person in your line of vision reacts to the staring, which makes you react as well. He tested his theory and had negative results.
Since the 1900s, various other experiments have tried to prove gaze detection is real, but the test results were either neutral or lacked proper scientific method. No one has yet been able to determine why or how this happens, but it does happen -- everyone has experienced this in their lifetimes. We just don’t know why.
We do know that brain cells light up when you sense being stared at, but the reasons how are more complicated than we can understand now.
Do people really have ESP, or do we have eyes in the backs of our heads? It’s in our best interests to sense predators. Unlike prey animals like deer and rabbits, who have monocular vision (their eyes are on the sides of their heads, and they see images separately), humans have binocular vision and eyes facing front, which is better for hunting, but bad when being hunted. Maybe during the caveman days we developed the ability to see if something wicked was coming up behind us?
Enjoy this special human gift, especially when you’re out and you feel eyes boring into your neck. Then you can turn around quick and freak the starer out, because staring is rude, don’t you know?