Why Do People Stare Into Space?

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Staring into space is a form of dissociation, a state between being asleep and awake. Individuals go into a dissociative state because the nervous system is overly stimulated. Dissociation is a survival mechanism that gives the body a temporary sense of numbness to decrease feelings of distress.

A small amount of stimulation, such as heavy traffic, can put some people into a dissociative state. An individual in such a state may stare ahead blankly without processing what he sees. Being in a dissociative state while driving is known as “highway hypnosis.”

To achieve a dissociative state, the body releases opiates into the brain. Chronic dissociation limits perceptions and the ability to interact with others.