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Avoid Boring Christmas Party Conversations With This Simple Blinking Trick


Any sea­soned Christ­mas party at­tendee will know the feel­ing of be­ing trapped in the world’s most boring conversation. Fortunately, there’s a way of escape without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that blink­ing at length helps sig­nal, ever so sub­tly, to your con­ver­sa­tional coun­ter­part that it’s time for them to back off. December 2018 re­search pub­lished in on­line jour­nal PLOS ONE found that blink­ing can have a sub­con­scious pur­pose. Paul Hömke from the Max Planck In­sti­tute for Psy­cholin­guis­tics said, “I noted that the longer blinks seem to have a spe­cial role in sig­nal­ing ‘mes­sage re­ceived,’ be­ing of­ten timed with nods and the like.”

In his re­search, Hömke got 35 vol­un­teers to have con­ver­sa­tions with vir­tual avatars. The avatars asked them a bunch of open-ended ques­tions, such as “How was your week­end? What did you do?” And while the vol­un­teers an­swered, the avatars would blink. Some avatars would blink for a fifth of a sec­ond, oth­ers would blink for two-thirds of a sec­ond. And the re­sult was that those vol­un­teers whose blath­er­ing on was met by a long blink would stop talk­ing about what­ever they were talk­ing about a few sec­onds be­fore those vol­un­teers who were con­fronted by an avatar’s shorter blink. “Our find­ings show that one of the sub­tlest of hu­man move­ments — eye blink­ing — ap­pears to have a sur­pris­ing ef­fect on the co-or­di­na­tion of every­day hu­man in­ter­ac­tion,” Hömke told The Times.

The best thing about this news is that de­lib­er­ate blinks al­ways last for longer than the in­vol­un­tary blinks that we do as part of a re­flex ac­tion to help lu­bri­cate our eyes, so you don’t have to awkwardly time your blinks.

That’s not the only way you can use blinks to your ad­van­tage. Pre­vi­ous re­search shows that, when talk­ing to a liar, you can note they’ll blink less fre­quently than they do while telling the truth. Once the lie is de­ployed, they’ll then speed up to about eight times faster than usual!

This article was originally written by Sophie Wilkinson. For more, check out our sister site, Grazia.

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