Cutest research, ever?

It’s incredibly cute when small children ‘hide’ out of sight by covering their eyes. Researchers wanting to find out more conducted a series of process-by-elimination tests to see if (and why) children really believe that adults can’t see them when they cover their eyes, according to Reader’s Digest.

Surprising findings

The quick answer is ‘yes’, but deeper exploration provides some fascinating insights into the minds of children:

“Testing children aged around three to four years, the researchers first asked them whether they could be seen if they were wearing an eye mask, and whether the researcher could see another adult, if that adult was wearing an eye mask. Nearly all the children felt that they were hidden when they were wearing the mask, and most thought the adult wearing a mask was hidden too.”

Is it the fact that a person's eyes are hidden from other people's view that renders them invisible, or if they think it's being blinded that makes you invisible?

Is it me, or is it you?

  • A new group of kids was asked whether they could be seen wearing goggles that were completely blacked out, meaning they couldn't see and their eyes were hidden.
  • Then, wearing a different pair covered in mirrored film, meaning they could see, but other people couldn't see their eyes.
  • Out of the 37 participating children, only 7 were able to grasp the idea that they could see out, but people couldn't see their eyes. 
  • Of these 7, all except one thought they were invisible regardless of which goggles they were wearing.
In other words, the children's feelings of invisibility seem to come from the fact that their eyes are hidden, rather than from the fact that they can't see, according to the study.

Deeper and deeper into the puzzle

The puzzling results seem to indicate that children differentiate between the body (which they agreed was visible when their eyes were covered) and their ‘self’, which wasn’t visible when their eyes were covered.

The researchers suggested that eye contact was an important factor: The kids agreed that if they held a testers gaze, they could be seen, but if they looked away, they were invisible. If the tester looked away, the kids said the tester was hidden.

“... for somebody to be perceived, experience must be shared and mutually known to be shared, as it is when two pairs of eyes meet,"
the researchers said.

The study has provided loads of food for thought and future studies, especially since children with autism are renowned for averting their gaze. In addition, possible areas of study include testing the experiences of congenitally blind children.

Who would have thought that the simple ‘peek-a-boo’ game could contain such fascinating possibilities?

Does your child ever ‘hide’ by covering her eyes?