Studies have shown that large amounts of people believe that small emissions come out of our eyes while viewing the world around us. Researchers have asked people to sketch looking at an object, and most drew arrows or lines coming from the eyes to the objects (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
This belief starts very early on in a person’s life. While levels of people who believe this decrease with age, huge portions still believe it to be true. This myth can be traced back to ancient Greece when Plato mentioned fire coming from the eyes to describe the process of sight. Even though other scientists and philosophers disagreed, the theory remained.
Throughout time, cultures and artists have depicted eyes as having incredible power, to cause warm,t o prevent evil, or to express deep emotion. People report also being able to feel someone staring at them, seeming to fall into the idea of the eyes giving off some kind of energy (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
Rupert Sheldrake created a study that seemed to show people could in fact tell when someone was looking at them by feel, but other researchers have found issues with how his study was conducted. Other individuals claiming to have power or energy in their eyes have similarly been disproven (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
This is another example of what is in stories and movies shaping what we believe. From Superman and his X-Ray vision to the power of Medusa’s eyes turning people to stone, eyes are connected with outputs of tremendous strength. The fact that some animals like raccoons seem to reflect light during the night because of their eyes’ functions reinforces the idea of eyes omitting some kind of energy or force (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
Even more surprising, education seems to make no difference on how people accept this myth or not. Even with extensive lectures on the subject, college students seem to be immune to changing their opinion on eye omissions. The only classes that do work are refutational classes, where they clearly show what eyes cannot do ((ilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
This is a myth that has a strong grounding in the popular television characters and comic book heroes we grow up with an is engrained into our thoughts and routines. While it does not seem practical to believe that tiny emissions come from our eyes in order to see, when surrounded with messages that seem to express it, it shapes our overall opinion (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
It is surprising how much effort and study it takes to change the perception of tiny emissions from the eyes. College level courses that show how vision really works seems like it should be adequate to show that there is nothing coming out of the eye, but apparently it takes extensive courses showing what the eyes do and what they don’t do to make a change ((Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein, 2009).
While scientifically incorrect, this myth seems lesser than the others in that it does not do real harm if the individual believes it. If a person believes in ESP, for instance, they can be twisted or manipulated for money. Believing in energy emission from the eyes, while incorrect and not at all accurate, it is a relatively harmless belief to have in the overall scheme of popular myths.