Why Do We Move Our Eyes When Thinking?

In crime TV shows, there’s always a scenario where a nice guy detective brings a suspect to the station for questioning, and the detective isn’t going anywhere until he discovers it. When they answered their last question, the suspect turned to the right, a clear sign that someone was lying.

However, in the real world, that detective may have arrested an entirely innocent individual for just believing that when you answer a question and look right or left or in any direction, it doesn’t mean you’re lying.


Regardless of the question, you’re responding to, your eyes do it all the time. While answering a question, looking at something or someone can make it more difficult to think. As a result, you might take your gaze away from what’s in front of you to consider a response.


However, scientists have discovered that we do not just glance away to escape distractions. The eyeballs continue to move even if you are alone or have your eyes closed. Saccades are rapid involuntary eye movements that last as long as you’re thinking.


What’s causing this is tied to what you’re thinking about. For example, if you’re playing a brain teaser and doing a lot of visual thinking, such as remembering an image or manipulating an object in your thoughts, your brain may treat it as if you’re seeing or moving that object.


What’s more astonishing is that your eyes will move in the identical pattern as they did the first time you glanced at whatever you’re imagining. And it’s not as if you recall how your eyes moved when you initially viewed the object. If you imagine something through a verbal description rather than seeing it, the second pattern will still occur.


Scientists can figure out which problem-solving tactics people utilize and what stage they’re at by observing their eye movements. If you want to find out if two photographs are mirror images, for example, you’ll need to visualize the forms and rotate them in your mind to see them from different perspectives. Because of the way you move your eyes while doing this, it’s possible that you split the shape down into smaller parts and then rotate each one separately using visual thinking.


Because our eyes don’t just move while we’re thinking about visual difficulties, it’s difficult to tell which eye movements are due to visual processing and which are due to merely thinking. When we answer verbal queries like “Do you remember what you wore yesterday?” they move even more.

Researchers believe this is because of fact that our eyes shift when we’re searching for our long-term memory, which occurs more frequently with verbal questioning since we need to remember information from diverse periods. All of this recollection needs eye movements. There’s evidence that when you’re thinking about the past, present, or future, your eyes wander to various regions.


Your eyes may be looking through time, with each eye position corresponding to a distinct point on a timeline, in the same manner as they search across visual space, where each eye position correlates to a point in space.


Although it is still uncertain whether eye movements are required for nonvisual thought or if they just occurred at the same moment. There’s some evidence that making significant back-and-forth eye motions can help with memory recall.


However, the majority of the unconscious saccades we do while thinking are quite minor. Eye movements that are deliberately suppressed do not appear to affect memory recall. As a result, there is conflicting evidence about whether saccades serve a purpose during thinking. However, other experts believe that these non-visual eye movements are a result of how our brains evolved. So the circuits that search long-term memory developed from those that search visual space, which would be those eye movements we make while thinking about our vestigial relic of an earlier stage in the evolutionary process, and we don’t require it to search our memory.

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