Eye Blinking

Facts About Blinking of the Eyes

Gazing eyes
Eyes blinking animation by TenorOpens in new window

Blinking is the rapid closing and opening of the eyes. It is a semi-autonomic processOpens in new window that occurs naturally whereby the eyelids wipe the eyes clean, much as a windscreen wiper on a car.

When we blink, our eyelidsOpens in new window spread a cocktail of oils and mucous secretions across the surface of the eye to keep its globes from drying out. On average, we blink 10 times per minute and every blink won’t last longer than one-tenth of a second. The frequency of blinking indicates how nervous or worried a person is. Significantly, faster rates may reflect emotional stress, as aroused, for example, in the fight or flight response.

Blink rate can increase up to a hundred times a minute. Blink rate is not a reliable sign of lying. Lack of blinking can indicate that he is in a trance, asleep with his eyes open, extremely hostile, or in a deep state of indifference. The eye blink has been found to occur during vocalizationsOpens in new window at the beginning of words and utterances, usually with the initial vowel of the word (Condon and Ogston, 1996).

Some people have the mannerism of shutting their eyelids for up to two or three seconds every now and then while speaking. It signals that the person feels uninterested, bored, or superior and is trying to block the other out from his sight. This gives the listener a feeling of being left out and creates a distance between him and the speaker. People who are connected may blink at the same rate.

Infrequent blink can mean different things and so offers no single clue unless combined with other signals. An infrequent blink rate is probably due to boredom if the eyes are not focused, or can be the opposite—concentration—if accompanied with a strongly focused gaze. Infrequent blink rate can also be accompanied by signals of hostility or negativity, and is therefore not the most revealing of body language signals (Businessballs, 2011).