Freshly Baked Science
In The Blink Of An Eye
10th July 2018
If you’ve spent enough time around babies, you may have noticed that they don’t blink very often. If you haven’t spent much time around babies… they don’t blink very often.
On average, adults will blink about 15 times a minute, but babies will only blink 2-3 times a minute! Try only blinking twice in the space of a minute and let us know how you get on by tweeting us (@magazinewonk). Chances are, you’ll be able to do it but you’ll really have to think about it and your eyes will start to water… a lot!
Why do we blink?
Blinking is still a bit of a scientific mystery, but it’s believed that the reason for blinking is a mixture of many factors. Dopamine (a chemical involved in reward and pleasure) actually acts as a controller for blinking, with people with high levels of dopamine blinking more frequently than those with low levels.
Spontaneous blinking, which is the blinking we don’t think about doing, is mostly thought to spread your tears around your eyeball to keep it lubricated and to remove any dust. While this is true, we blink way more often than is necessary to just keep our eyes wet and clean.
Another study has suggested that blinking is also a way to relieve tension. This was suggested when they found that people who are feeling extreme emotions, i.e. excited, angry, nervous, etc. blink more than people who are feeling relaxed and calm.
Others are suggesting that blinking gives your brain a microsecond to rest and that it refocuses our eyes when they get lazy and blurred.
So why do babies blink less than us?
In terms of lubrication, one theory is that because babies have smaller eyeballs, they don’t need to be lubricated as much, so they will blink less.
Another theory is that babies have a lot more visual information to take in on a daily basis, so in blinking less they will be able to absorb and learn from their environment quicker!
It could also be an indication of how much dopamine babies have, maybe suggesting that their dopamine control centre is underdeveloped at their age. So in theory, once the dopamine control centre develops, their rate of blinking will increase towards the adult average!
Animals blink too, so if you get the chance, maybe with a dog and a puppy, why not conduct a science experiment of your own. Set a timer for a minute and see whether a dog or puppy blinks more often! Let us know your results on twitter (@magazinewonk)!