It is not uncommon to feel someone looking at you in a crowd, it’s a feeling that has been referenced in many romantic or horror filled contexts.
The woman or man has an eerie feeling that they are being watched and especially when it is a horror movie, they discount the feeling, only to have some horrid person come after them in another scene and they discover too late that they were right all along.
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It is however a common reality in everyday life too, you will often feel a friend or colleague or even a stranger looking at you before you bring your face up and encounter the person’s eyes and maybe even wave, but no, it is not a weird psychic ability that you alone possess.
Science actually has some answers as to why it happens.
The cause is a mix of your brain’s lightning fast processing abilities and social tendencies common to the human species.
For humans, eye contact is a very important part of communication. Whereas in some animals, it is more favored to hide where they are looking to help in their hunting, humans mostly do not operate in that manner.
In human beings, it is much easier to follow a person’s gaze because of the more visible sclera (the white part of the eye) and Psychology Today states that the brain has a specific system dedicated to detecting the gaze of others.
The body basically does not want to miss a potential connection (or threat). So even when someone is not directly facing you, you can still sense their gaze from your peripheral vision.
Eye contact is the basis on which crucial relationships are built, so your body is looking out for you, but what of those moments when you feel a gaze but you look up and there really is no one there?
It’s really still a common thing with our species; humans are hardwired to assume people are looking as an over-precaution. Colin Clifford, a professor at UNSW Australia, explained it this way to the Daily Mail;
“A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it, so simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”
So the next time you feel someone looking at you, you do not need to feel weird, your body is just basically trying to alert you to a new connection or a threat and sometimes being overzealous about it.