Why We Sometimes Think We’re Being Watched

2 years ago

Most likely you’ve ever had the feeling that there was someone staring at you from behind your back, even if you couldn’t actually see anyone. You are not alone. Apparently, this is a shared experience among many of us and there are even studies covering the reasons why we sometimes feel that way, with more than one explanation.

So that’s why Bright Side decided to gather some examples of what might be going on when you have that shiver down your spine and the feeling that there is someone watching you.

1. Our brains can tell if someone is looking at us, even if we haven’t seen it.

study was conducted with a ’cortically blind’ patient, who couldn’t see due to damage caused to the visual cortex (a part of the brain). He was unable to perceive anything consciously, like watching a movie or reading a book, but could process information that went to the brain areas that worked. The research showed that we are able to feel if someone is looking directly at us, even if we have not consciously seen it, which can explain why we feel we are being watched even if we haven’t actually seen anyone looking at us.

2. An interpretation mistake

Another thing that can confirm this feeling, and even make it happen more frequently, is when you turn around and see that there’s actually someone looking at you. Even though this may seem like a confirmation that there was someone staring all along, the person who looked at you may have done that just because you turned around, which kind of misses the whole point.

3. A small hint puts you on alert.

The feeling of being watched can be caused by a small clue that has alerted your brain, it can be something you saw from the corner of your eye, a faint sound that’s coming from an undisclosed location, or anything that you are uncertain of. This in addition to a bit of paranoia and the fact that you can’t see what’s behind your back can give you the impression that there is someone behind you watching your steps, even if that’s not the case.

4. If you are not sure, the answer is probably “Yes.”

According to a study from the University of Sydney, when people receive limited visual cues about their environment, like if it’s dark or if they’re wearing sunglasses, and can’t tell exactly what’s going on, they tend to rely on their previous experience. This makes them more likely to believe they are being stared at, especially in cases where they are uncertain.

5. Understanding that someone is staring at us is important.

Being able to identify if someone is looking at us, and also being recognized when looking at someone is a really important part of human behavior, as it has to do with the communication between people. Since the beginning of human evolution, the gaze has been a powerful instrument to communicate emotions, like love, anger, and information required for surviving and it has been evolving ever since. That’s why our brains are specialized in this activity, and we are always alert about our surroundings.

Have you ever had the feeling of being watched? Tell us all about it in the comments!


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I've had that feeling many times, but it's probably somebody who wants to be sure I'm healthy. I was very sick in recent years, but not this one.


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