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.