Your Eyes Are the Key to Your Soul -- Well, Your Patience and Impulsiveness, Anyway

Quick.  How fast did you read this sentence? If it was less than a millisecond, you may be one of those -- like me -- who makes impulsive decisions.

Turns out, thanks to a new study, it's been found that the quicker you move your eyes, the less patient you are, according to

"Using a simple study of eye movements, Johns Hopkins scientists report evidence that people who are less patient tend to move their eyes with greater speed," the Web site reports. The findings, the researchers say, suggest that the weight people give to the passage of time may be a trait "consistently used throughout their brains, affecting the speed with which they make movements, as well as the way they make certain decisions"

Researchers set out to find why some people are willing to wait and others aren’t. I don't know about you but the second I see a line forming at a store, I want to get in it, even sometimes before I've made all the purchases I came for, just so I can get out quicker. 

Sometimes I just walk out. For years I couldn't use drive-ups because I couldn't bear to sit behind other cars.

"When I go to the pharmacy and see a long line, how do I decide how long I'm willing to stand there?" one of the lead investigators tells "Are those who walk away and never enter the line also the ones who tend to talk fast and walk fast, perhaps because of the way they value time in relation to rewards?"


The motions our eyes make the are probably the fastest movements of the body, says Reza Shadmehr, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University. "They occur in just milliseconds." 

When the speed of volunteers' eye movements was compared to their impulsivity during a test of their patience, there was a strong correlation. "It seems that people who make quick movements, at least eye movements, tend to be less willing to wait," says Shadmehr at

Researchers concluded that there may be a fundamental link "between the way the nervous system evaluates time and reward in controlling movements and in making decisions. After all, the decision to move is motivated by a desire to improve one's situation, which is a strong motivating factor in more complex decision-making, too."

So maybe I don't need to apologize the next time I race someone to a line?  "It's just my eyes," I can tell them.

As for impulsivity, I'm there, too.  I knew I was going to marry him the night I met my husband. Of course, it took us 10 years!  But it was one of the best impulsive decisions, 20 years later, that I ever made.


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