Do humans, especially children, have a built in bias that tells them where the self is, and if so, how and why would this have evolved? Paul Bloom and Christina Starmans, of Yale Univeristy, published a clever research article last week in the journal Cognition, arguing that children and adults tend to assume the self is in and around the eyes.
…Why we would people have this eye bias? What is it about the eyes that gives them the honor of Official Self Palace?… Think about it – if you’re trying to really understand what’s going on in someone’s head, you can’t just focus on what they say – you have to stare them in the eye. That’s why so many poker players wear sunglasses.
…I would venture a guess that the evolution of the language of the eyes predates verbal language. There’s something more universal, primal, and emotional about looking into someone’s eyes — it’s a language of the reptilian brain, not the cortices of complex thought.
Introversion – along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness – is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologise for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell” – that noxious expression that fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same. “All the comments from childhood still ring in my ears, that I was lazy, stupid, slow, boring,” writes a member of an email list called Introvert Retreat. “By the time I was old enough to figure out that I was simply introverted, it was a part of my being, the assumption that there is something inherently wrong with me. I wish I could find that little vestige of doubt and remove it.”
Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favour of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.
Or, as Lao Tzu said, you like to be forgotten by the world and left alone. I agree with Robert Butler: not everyone wants validation and approval, thanks anyway.
Taciturn and retiring, sequestered in the farthest corner, in unremarkable drab clothing, my hat pulled low, my hair and beard shrouding my face, my eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. I become an opaque eyeball; I am nothing; I see all.