It’s a universal game that every child knows: Peekaboo. The fun part of the game, of course, is to watch as the child covers their eyes and proceeds to think that they can’t be seen. They are thrilled to hear your confused, “Where is Johnny?” And, giggle with delight when they uncover their eyes and “reappear” for you.
Why Do Children Do This?
Well, some researchers at the University of Cambridge decided to find out and conducted a study of three and four year old children in an effort to uncover exactly what kids believe happens when they hid their eyes from view.
The results were interesting, in that, most of the children understood that their physical bodies could still be seen, yet they said they felt invisible, or like “they couldn’t be seen” when their eyes were covered (by goggles, their hands, or blindfolds).
In another part of the study, the researchers stared directly at the children but asked the children to not look directly at them. Then they switched, asking the children to look at them while the researchers averted their eyes. Again, the children agreed. They felt that they were not seen when direct eye contact wasn’t made.
We often think about the important role our eyes play in the physical act of seeing, but we rarely consider how important our eyes are to the way we relate to this world.
Windows of the Soul
It has long been said that the eyes are the window into one’s soul. It seems even a child as young as three understands that no real, person-to-person connection is made with someone unless there is direct eye contact. Without ever being told, children innately know that you can hide your true self and avoid relationship if you hide your eyes.
And, if you think about it, we adults still play our own version of this children’s game. We know not to make eye contact in class if we don’t want to be called on. Or, have you ever “not” wanted to run into someone while you were out and thought simply by avoiding looking at the other person that perhaps they wouldn’t see you? I guess children aren’t the only ones who think they are invisible if they don’t make eye contact.
I think this study is an interesting reminder to keep our eyes healthy not just so we can read the newspaper or drive at night, but so we can effectively communicate and build healthy relationships.
If it’s been longer than a year since your last eye exam, make an appointment at your local America’s Best optometrist