Dense clouds roll past. Heavy Gatling guns boom. Pandemonium. Troops deploy. Gallop of hoofs. Artillery.
Blinking is a spontaneous action that serves an important role: it spreads tears across the surface of the eye, keeping it moist and clean so that it can work properly. Yet most of us blink every three or four seconds, far more frequent than is needed for lubrication and cleaning, and exactly why is unknown. New research now suggests that blinking may also play an active role in brain function – it may “reset” our attention mechanism, enabling us to switch our focus from one thing to another.
Attention has a limited capacity and is highly selective. We can only attend to a maximum of three or four things at any one time, and doing so can make us completely oblivious to everything else in our surroundings. In order to notice something, we have to focus our attention onto it, and this involves disengaging our attention from what we are already focused on, then shifting our gaze and re-allocating our attentional resources onto something new.