Drive by looking on the freeway

Why is it then when driving on the freeway, looking over to the person in the car next to you will very often make them look back at you?

On the flip side, why is it that its so easy to realize in your peripheral vision that you’re being looked at, and whats with the response to look back?

Is it just instinct? The human brain can guess when a pattern of light and dark areas corresponds to a human face? If I wore military camoflauge and made the light sports darker would this make the reflex go away?

It’s probably just faulty data - nobody’s done a scientific study.

If you look at someone, and they look back, you remember it.
If they don’t look back you forget about it.

When you consider the matter later, all you remember is that people ‘always’ looked back at you.
A similar effect happens with people dreaming about plane crashes. If there is a plane crash the next day, they think it’s significant. If there isn’t they forget the dream.

Peripheral vision is more sensitive to motion and change - this is why some computer monitors appear to flicker more when you look away from them slightly.

There’s also something about symmetry that makes us look; predators usually have good binocular vision and because of this, it is necessary that they present their faces to us in such a way as to look highly symmetrical - it makes sense that we should take notice.

Having said all that, I think glee may be on the money in this particular case; we’re not talking about data gathered under clinical conditions here, are we?

While I don’t have any evidence to offer, I’m not convinced that this is simply an imagined phenomenon. I have an uncanny ability to tell when people are looking at me. I think you’re on the right track with the color thing. I’ve found that the white on people’s eyeballs really stands out in peripheral vision. As for the origin of this ability, I would wager our ancestors found it quite useful to be quickly aware when a lion swings it’s head in your direction.

No, no clinical data here, but as BaldTaco says, its the “someone is looookkiing at meeeeee” thing which I’m wondering about.

I guess I’m missing something here–peripheral vision means you can see them. You see them look at you, you look back. No mystery there.

I have a related observation about passing on the highway.
Has anyone noticed that as you pass, your line of driving ever-so-slightly moves toward the other car, and then after you’ve passed them your car moves away?
For some reason, when passing you crowd the other car a little.

But its so quick. Its not quick motion or anything, and it sure isn’t conscious thought on my part. Its not “oh, I see a face over there”.

Maybe it’s just that everyone is always looking at you.

Well, I am devilishly handsome after all. :slight_smile:


Dr. R. Sheldrake claims that the infamous “being stared at” effect is part of parapsychology, and he ignited an ongoing controversy with his recent book “Seven experiments that could change the world.” Other experiments involved bird flocking, severed limbs, and pets who mysterously “know” when their owners are coming home.


He’s even running a realtime online version of the “Staring experiment”:

And here’s the skeptical take on Sheldrake’s “being stared at” results:

They suspect that the experimental subjects figured out that, because his random number list wasn’t random enough, they could guess whether the next trial was to be a “staring” or “no staring” test.

I haven’t noticed that, but maybe I would of I was riding in your car :D. There is a tendency to steer in the direction you’re looking, so if you were watching the car as you passed it, that might happen.