Thursday, September 17, 2009


A study of eighteen volunteers found they synchronized their blinks while watching video clips taken from the comedy TV show Mr Bean.

But the same phenomenon did not occur when they viewed a background video or listened to an audio recording of a Harry Potter book.

Dr Tamami Nakano, of Tokyo University, said: We seem to be unconsciously searching for a good timing for a blink to minimize the chance of losing critical information during the blink

A blink lasts for between 100 and 150 milliseconds., with automatically blinks 10 to 15 times a minute to moisten and oxygenate the cornea.

During a blink, there is no visual input and no light, but people do not consciously recognise everything has momentarily gone dark.

Dr Nakano, whose findings are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said: Spontaneous eyeblinks were synchronized both within and across subjects when they viewed the same video stories

This blink synchronization was not observed when they viewed background videos that did not contain any story or when they listened to a narrated story.

Thus, the synchronization required a story, but the need to follow a storyline per se was not the cause of synchronization.

The blink synchrony occurred only when subjects had to follow a storyline by extracting information from a stream of visual events

The participants were aged between 22 and 31 with nine men and nine women.

They each sat through three experiments in which a video story taken from Mr Bean, a background video and a narration of a story taken from Harry Potter were presented.

Dr Nakano said Rowan Atkinson's character was selected because the stories, which showed him driving a car in the street or in a parking garage, were easy to understand without sound.

The background videos featured schools of tropical fish and landscapes surrounding the Aegean Sea and the audio stories were taken from narrations of an actor reading the novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Japanese


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