Wednesday, January 12, 2011
You Looking At Me?
Cats can stare the pants off of any person. (Not that we want you taking off your pants; that's just an expression.) You can tell from my photo that I'm no slouch in the staring department, but the champion glare queen (you might call her a "stare master") was definitely Feisty, whom we know as the legendary Daughter. If you've watched our cat-related book trailers, you've seen her photo, but I'll post it below for sake of convenience. This wasn't really a glare, but Daughter used to stare into space at things only she could see.
Tober, the Library Cat at Thorntown (Indiana) Public Library, talks about giving the "Stink-eye," which is what felines do when we see somebody who is, but shouldn't be, intruding upon our turf, or the supper dish is empty, or you are sitting in our favorite sleeping spot, or we are generally irritated. We have a few good examples of this from our personal kitty photo collection. [From top to bottom: Callie Jo, Fluffy, Gracie (whom we call Baby), and Junior (of Baskets From Junior's Farm fame)].
Now, all this staring serves a useful purpose. It is a means of communication, both when the intended target sees the stare (hence Tober's "Stink-eye" to ward off intruders) and when the intended target does not see it. How could anyone be aware of someone staring at him/her if s/he didn't see the stare? That, my friends, is the 50-lb. name brand cat food bag question, and to scientifically answer it, we turn to the works of renowned biologist Rupert Sheldrake. Watch our book trailer, if you don't mind being stared at.
This is a fascinating read. Sheldrake has conducted a gazillion experiments testing his extended awareness theories (something to do with morphogenetic fields), and he explained one in another of his books, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (Riverhead Trade pbk. ed., 1996).
The Music Man did this experiment for his sixth grade science fair project. You blindfold people and have someone sit behind them. An experimenter flips a coin to decide if the behind person will stare or not stare at the blindfolded folks. Using hand signals, the experimenter informs the starer of the results of each coin flip, and then the starer either stares or not. After a certain period of time, each blindfolded person reports to a recordkeeper whether or not s/he feels as if s/he is being stared at. This is repeated for about 30 trials or more. The results are then tabulated. Sheldrake discovered that a statistically significant number of persons could accurately detect while blindfolded whether or not s/he was being stared at. Pretty spooky, no?
Try the experiment for yourselves. See what happens. (If your head explodes, then forget I said anything.) Science can be a lot of fun when you study interesting things.
Scowl-Face wrote a short blog about our book trailer above, but, frankly, he didn't say much, which is really unusual. Read it and weep. (Okay, that was mean. Take a look if you'd like.)
I'd stare at you right now, but it's nap time. Drop by later. Something will have irritated me by then.
Giving People Tober's "Stink-eye" When It's Deserved,
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Stare Master News Beat