BOSTON (CBS) – Did you know you blink your eyes more than 13,000 times a day? Scientists now believe that blinking is not only important for our health but may also be a form of communication, much like nodding your head.

The main reason we blink is to keep our eyeballs lubricated and to protect our eyes from debris, but scientists say we don’t need to blink nine times a minute to achieve that goal, which means blinking probably serves another function.

To study that, researchers in the Netherlands had participants answer questions from a virtual reality avatar. When the avatar had longer blinks of their eyes, the participants gave shorter answers. With shorter blinks, the participants gave longer answers suggesting that blinking does provide nonverbal cues during a conversation that can help convey understanding or loss of attention.

Previous studies have found that we blink more during a conversation than while performing other tasks and that we tend to blink at the end of sentences or when we think someone has finished speaking.

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