Your mom may not have been lying when she told you she had eyes in the back of her head. A series of tests conducted at Tohoku University in Japan have provided the first evidence that our visual system constructs a 360 degree model of our surroundings, despite our only being aware of our narrow forward facing range of vision. The results of the test bear a resemblance to Rupert Sheldrake's concept of "morphic resonance" which, among other things, posits that we a sense of being stared at.
The research was led by Satoshi Shioiri, a professor with the Research Institute of Electrical Communication at Tohoku University. A viewer would stand in the center of a 360 degree circle of six screens. The screens would flash a series of letters and the viewers were asked to find a specific letter. The researchers found that that with repetition, the viewers would get progressively faster at finding letters, even when the viewer was not aware of the repetition. The researchers say that the viewers got quicker at finding the letters regardless of where they were positioned, including the letters directly behind them:
This happened even when the target object was located in the rear, which shows that visual processing is not limited to the visual field, but extends to a wider field around the viewer.
Maybe saying you have "eyes in the back of your head," isn't just a turn of phrase.
According to Tohoku University, the research suggests that our brains construct "a 360-degree worldview" despite us being consciously aware only of what we can see directly in front of us.
The term "morphic fields" and "morphic resonance" were coined by researcher and parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake in his 1981 book A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Morphic Resonance. Sheldrake hypothesized mysterious fields projected from every living thing which are responsible for imposing order on chaotic systems as well as genetic memory and psychic phenomenon including telepathy, precognition, and the psychic staring effect—knowing when someone is staring at you.
Sheldrake argues that there is a collective memory and collective awareness shared throughout humanity, and that supernatural phenomena are, in fact, natural, and caused by morphic fields interacting with one another.
According to Sheldrake:
The existence of these fields is experimentally testable through the sense of being stared at itself.
You can find out here conduct staring experiments for yourself. There is a database of the results of the online staring test from 2003 to 2014 on Rupert Sheldrake's website, as well. According to that database. If the results are to be believed, just over 60% of people were able to tell when they were being stared at, 10% higher than chance should allow for. It needs to be said that this is crowd-sourced experimenting that doesn't have the same rigorous controls as clinical tests.
Despite many criticisms of Sheldrake's research by mainstream scientists, feeling as if you can tell when you're being watched is a rather common human experience. Is it possible that the researchers at Tohoku University inadvertently found evidence for Sheldrake's morphic fields hypothesis? Or is the opposite true? Perhaps the "eyes in the back of our heads" aren't due to morphic fields, but are still the underlying reason for the sense of being stared at?
Or maybe it will just go down as "huh, that's weird," and I'll still freak myself out at night and have no idea why.