Re: winking

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Mon, 1 Apr 1996 16:45:53 -0500

On Mon, 1 Apr 1996, Robert Lawless wrote:

> Edmund Carpenter sometimes tells the story of trying to teach the Biami in
> New Guinea to wink, suggesting that the ability to close one eye at a time
> is associated with literacy. Indeed, the Kalingas of the North Luzon
> Highlands, among whom I worked, did not generally wink and had great
> difficulty learning to. I'm wondering whether these two incidents are
> simply cultural artifacts or are indeed associated with non-literacy. Is
> there anyone who has examples of non-literate people who do wink? Robert
> Lawless.

This is a very interesting question for which I have no answers. I am
reminded of another aspect of visual behavior for which there is some
variability, albeit I don't know whether it is cultural, ethnic,
biological, or simply individualistic. I have heard there is a
relationship between hypnotic suggestibility and being able to turn up
one's eyeballs in their sockets. That is, the more whites showing, the
further up into the orbits the eyeball is being rotated and the more
susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Apparently, I score well on this
because I was able to stop smoking about ten years ago with a one-shot
hypnotic session that I don't even remember, and believe me, I was as
hard-core-three-packs-a-day-no-filters as they come, with pipes and
cigars thrown in. Smoking without inhaling was impossible for me. Yet
this was "painless", requiring only a week of saying some short mantra
regarding my health.
I find it hard to believe that winking cannot be done in some groups as
winking is so similar to blinking, and I would be amazed if all
humans didn't share such a reflex. If you asked these people to slowly
close their eyes, they would (assuming that you've got their language
right). If you asked them to slowly close one eye, I'll bet they could.
If you asked them to do it faster, ...surely they would!?!?
Such an ability may indeed have some correlation with some other kind of
psychological pattern, but I find it hard to imagine it would be literacy.
A very interesting question.
Ralph Holloway