“Look into my eyes,” says Count Dracula, as well as every slick stage hypnotist, and, er, this guy. It turns out that staring into someone’s eyes can be literally mesmerizing. Vision researcher Giovanni Caputo gathered a roomful of volunteers and sat them in pairs close together in a dimly lit room. “The illumination was set to a level that still allowed participants to pick up fine facial features, but color perception was diminished,” reports iflscience. “Half of the pairs sat opposite one another, gazing at each other’s neutral expressions, while the others sat back-to-back, staring at the wall.” After ten minutes the participants who had been staring at other people reported “higher levels of attenuated color intensity than controls, with noises seeming louder than they should. Time seemed to slow down and they felt spaced out. Additionally, almost 90% of them said their partner’s face appeared deformed, 75% saw monstrous beings and 15% even saw traits of a relative’s face emerge on their partner.”
Caputo theorizes that “these hallucinations, so-called ‘strange-face apparitions,’ could be a consequence of snapping back to ‘reality’ after entering a dissociative state brought about by the lack of sensory stimulation.” Or it might be because staring at a central point causes your peripheral vision to fade, and it’s possible the brain is compensating (okay, over-compensating) by providing information to fill in the gaps. You don’t even need to be lookng at somebody else: an earlier study by Caputo on a group of people staring at their reflections produced similar reports of “strange face illusions.” None of them fell in love with what they saw, however, unlike this guy.