Worried you’ll blink and miss a crucial piece of the action? Then you can relax. While watching a film, we subconsciously control the timing of blinks to make sure we don’t miss anything important. And because we tend to watch films in a similar way, moviegoers often blink in unison, researchers find.
The flow of visual information to the brain is halted by up to 450 milliseconds with every blink, and we lose up to 6 seconds of information every minute, says Tamani Nakano at the University of Tokyo in Japan. This means moviegoers who sit through a 150-minute film have their eyes shut for up to 15 minutes.
Nakano and colleagues worked out how we cope with such extreme information loss. They monitored the eye blinks of volunteers as they watched a clip of a silent comedy with a strong narrative, or a movie of an aquarium with no narrative, or listened to an audio book with a narrative, but not a visual one.
Using the timing of those blinks as a reference, the researchers then played the volunteers the same clip again and measured whether the eye blinks occurred at the same time as the reference blinks.