Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who has eyes on the back of their heads?

c. David Grim (taken 8/28/10)

If you read my post about Sheldrake's "The Sense of Being Stared At", you probably guessed that there are some fairly provocative ideas contained within the book. One of the remarkable conclusions from his research involved the comparative abilities of different demographic groups to detect when they were being observed from behind. In a seemingly exhaustive series of studies in Amsterdam (with 18,793 participants) it was found that the most successful group was "Boys under the age of 8", and the least successful was "Girls from 9-16".

Why should this be?

To begin with, I have a bit of difficulty coming up with theories as to why those boys performed the best in the experiments. Perhaps it has something to do with the intuitive nature of children. Certainly kids younger than 8 years of age should have (in general) been able to avoid becoming too distracted by abstract concerns. Maybe that lack of "noise" allows them to be more receptive to ingrained, defense-oriented, extrasensory data that could have been selected for over millions of years. But why should it be the boys who had the most success? Perhaps it's because the males of the species require a certain level of this capability to make them good hunters. That's a plausible explanation.

And what about the girls and their relative lack of "eyes in the back of their heads"? This is a bit of a stretch (and it may get me into a spot of trouble with my female friends)... but maybe little girls are trained by the age of 9 to take being stared at for granted. They wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary because they expect to be looked at and evaluated, as budding members of the "fairer sex". This is certainly a disturbing conclusion. While it may be a self-protecting mechanism for girls to remain largely ignorant of the many eyes assessing them (because, who in their right minds wants to be aware of being watched constantly?), it truly describes an unfortunate state of society if this is what we subject them to.

If we follow the logic of these observations, I believe we really ought to examine our values with the aim of constructing a more egalitarian society. It may be folly to try and correct for the developments of nature (and evolution), but to continue to dull the extrasensory perception of half of our population with an inordinate amount of emphasis on objectification is inexcusable.

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