If you’ve ever wondered why people close their eyes when kissing, a new study may have the answer.
The study conducted by cognitive psychologists Polly Dalton and Sandra Murphy of Royal Holloway, University of London, and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance found that the brain has a difficult time processing tactile sensations while also engaged in visual stimuli. That means that a person’s sense of touch is less acute when they are also looking at something.
“It was already known that increasing the demands of a visual task could reduce noticing of visual and auditory stimuli,” Murphy said in a statement. “Our research extends this finding to the sense of touch.”
The researchers examined how our brains process visual and tactile stimuli at the same time by measuring the tactile sense of 16 participants while they completed visual tasks. In order to measure their sense of touch, the volunteers were asked to respond to vibrations delivered to one of their hands while they completed letter searching tasks of either low or high difficulty.
After analyzing the results, the researchers found that the participants’ tactile sense was less perceptive when their eyes had to do more demanding visual tasks.
“Our research found that engaging in a more demanding visual task reduced people’s sensitivity to tactile sensations,” Dalton told Medical Daily. “This does imply that reducing visual demands (for example, by shutting your eyes) can improve tactile awareness, and this could be one of the reasons that people shut their eyes when kissing.”
Dalton explained to the Independent that her findings could explain why people shut their eyes when kissing because “shutting out the visual input leaves more mental resources to focus on other aspects of our experience.”
According to the study’s authors, their research could help to improve vehicular alert systems.
“For example, some cars now provide tactile alerts when they begin drifting across lanes,” Bland said. “Our research suggests that drivers will be less likely to notice these alerts when engaging in demanding visual tasks such as searching for directions at a busy junction.”