[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
You’ve heard of synchronized swimming. But what about synchronized blinking? No, it’s not a new Olympic sport for slackers. It’s something that seems to happen when we watch a video. Because none of us want to miss the good parts.
If you stop to add it up, humans spend a lot of time not looking. We blink every couple seconds, which means we lose about six seconds out of every minute of viewing time. So 10 percent of the time we have no visual information coming in. Yet we rarely notice this interruption of service.
That’s because we tend to time our blinks so that we don’t get left in the dark. Or so says a report in the Royal Society journal Biological Sciences. Fourteen people watched a couple episodes of Mr. Bean. And it turns out they all tended to blink at the same moments: just after Bean finished doing something stupid or when the camera showed a long shot with nothing much going on. Such synchronized eye-shutting did not happen when the subjects watched a video of fish swimming around a tank.
So when we need to pay attention, we keep our eyes open. Until we see whether Mr. Bean gets through his holiday in one piece.