What does your eye movement say about you? Apparently quite a bit, at least when it comes to how patient or impulsive you are.
A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found a link between rapid saccades, or the accelerated eye motions that occur when our eyes are forced to shift their focus from one object to another, and a person’s ability to delay gratification. Would you wait in that long line at Starbucks, or give up and walk away? The answer is in the saccades.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University asked participants to undergo a series of tests that measured eye movement as well as how quickly they could respond to simple commands. The first test involved subjects shifting their focus between two dots on opposite sides of a screen while researchers recorded their eye movements.
Scientists found that some participants moved their eyes more rapidly than others, but that all subjects were consistent in their individual patterns of movement.
The second test involved subjects obeying simple commands flashed on a screen in front of them, telling them where to draw their focus. When they executed the movement correctly, a buzzer sounded. Sometimes, participants were made to wait for a directive, allowing researchers to determine the maximum time subjects were willing to wait for a command. Lastly, test subjects were asked to fill out a questionnaire that asked them to rate several variables, like how often they bought something impulsively or said something before thinking.
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In the end, researchers found that subjects whose saccades were more “vigorous” were also considered more impulsive and impatient. Participants whose eye movements were regularly slower were more willing to wait.
Researchers say their findings could point to a function in the brain that controls our impulses.
"Our hypothesis is that there may be a fundamental link between the way the nervous system evaluates time and reward in controlling movements and in making decisions," added Shadmehr.
In cities like New York, where residents live life on the edge of their seats, impatience isn’t a virtueless trait; it’s just a survival strategy. But previous studies have shown a correlation between impatience and several other, less appealing attributes, like obesity, lawlessness, divorce and drug abuse, the Los Angeles Times noted.