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What is a Staring Contest?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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A staring contest is a competition that can be described as a battle of wills. To play this game, a person stares into an opponent's eyes and tries to outlast him by not looking away. This goes on until either one of the opponents looks away or otherwise breakes eye contact. In some variations of this game, it also ends if either opponent blinks. This variation of the staring contest ups the ante, making it necessary for the opponents to fight not only the psychological urge to look way, but also the intense physical urge to blink.

There are some other variations on the staring contest as well. In most variations of the game, actions like smiling, laughing, frowning and making faces are not allowed. Talking, touching, winking and similar actions are prohibited as well. In others, however, opponents can perform these actions to try to get an edge on winning. Anything goes as far as actions and touching are concerned, as long as eye contact is maintained.

Surprisingly, some people compete in staring contests against pets, such as cats and dogs, as well as other animals. Animals tend to be much harder to defeat, as many of them can go without blinking; this is because of the fact that some animals have several eyelids that are transparent. This allows them to go for an extended period of time without appearing to blink. Interestingly, animals probably do not have the same psychological issues with maintaining eye contact that humans do, such as feeling vulnerable, emotionally exposed, or embarrassed. As far as humans are aware, they stare only to establish dominance or imply threat.

Staring contests have long been popular with children, who often collapse into giggles. However, adults often participate as well, and many have nearly as much trouble avoiding attacks of the giggles. On the other hand, some adults have impromptu staring contests as a form of intimidation. For example, men may engage in a staring contest to prove who is stronger or more masculine, without engaging in actual physical combat.

The staring contest has even gained popularity on television. For example, some late-night talk show hosts have indulged, playing with their scheduled guests. There is even a national association that officially governs stare contests. The National Association of Staredown Professionals (NASP) was founded in 1998 by Ernie Armstrong. The organization works to create and standardize rules for the staring contest.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon992147 — On Aug 18, 2015

It's a fun game to play. They have staring game apps in the Google Play store. There's even one with a human. She actually moves and laughed. It's not one of the usual still photo staring games in Google Play. Would be great to use in a focus training session as Anon36678 stated.

By anon36764 — On Jul 14, 2009

Some dogs can find staring intimidating as well, and use it to prove dominance--I have had dogs growl at me at which point they win the game because I back off.

By anon36729 — On Jul 14, 2009

I have had staring contests with both cats and dogs. Cats are likely to back off, which has been explained to me as "dominance intimidation." Dogs are more likely to come close and lick me, although some have backed off.

By anon36724 — On Jul 14, 2009

I used to scare people in my class by staring at them. One boy even told me that I looked frightening.

By anon36709 — On Jul 14, 2009

Hello.This article is interesting.I just want to know if animals that play staring contests are trained before.Besides, if two animals have transparent eyelids, they may spend a whole day playing this game if no referee exists on the field of play.

Anyway, thanks for the information.

By anon36678 — On Jul 14, 2009

I ofen played this game in my childhood and it is very interesting, and good for will focus training.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Writer

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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