*Gasp* My crush was staring at me! Does (s)he like me?
How many times have you heard someone apply this same logic to staring. A lot, right? Well, here are 9 other reasons why someone might be staring at us besides the one that first comes to mind: that they like us.
1) The person is staring into space.
We all stare into space. Life gets monotonous, and the fantasies in our heads are a defense mechanism for the boredom. When it happens, our eyes focus on what is easiest to focus on, which could be the back of someone else's head. Once we're spaced out, the brain stops registering what it is looking at and instead allocates its resources to the internal dialogue being created for you. As such, you might turn around and see that some guy or girl has been staring at you for what appears to be quite a long time. In reality, the person does not even realize that he or she is doing it; he or she is floating off to a faraway land where life has more to offer than you and the rest of the people around them.
2) The person is watching you do something.
People have no way to know exactly how they appear to others around them, much less what odd quirks are being exhibited at any given moment, especially when we're focused on doing something else. It could be a weird way we cross our legs, a periodic shifting in our seat, a twirling of our hair, an audible huff, an old man slouch. The list goes on. Any one of these things could catch the attention of someone around you who is staring because they are fascinated (or weirded out) by it. It doesn't mean that they like you.
3) The person finds you strange.
Similar to the above, what is normal for us may not be normal for the rest of the people around us. That haircut we think is bold and edgy might look like a birds' nest to the girl sitting behind us. Our clothing style and body shape may stand out in a way that makes people stare, for better or for worse. Since people are notoriously curious and can't unglue their eyes from things that stick, that person who is staring at you might be temporarily paralyzed by some unusual aspect of your appearance. It doesn't mean that they like you.
4) The person is nosy.
Pretend you're sitting in row 10 of a lecture hall and in row 8 there are three classmates who are chatting about some people they met at a bar. One of the girls thinks he is stalking her. The other girls thinks she's crazy. Then, she says someone came to her house in the night and left a note saying 'I know who you are'. You tune in and instinctively look over at them every so often. Unfortunately, two of the girls look over at you and catch your eyes a few of those times. You quickly look away. Does this mean you like them? No! You were just eavesdropping on their conversation.
5) The person has a beef with you.
If you got slighted by someone, that person is not going to disappear easily from your mind. Maybe they got a promotion that you feel that you deserved. Maybe you saw them flirting with your partner. Grudges can be hard to shake. So, when that person appears, you might stare at them, shoot daggers too while you're at it. If that person has no idea that you dislike them though, they may misinterpret your staring as having a romantic overtone--especially if you go out of your way to mask your distaste for them during interactions with them.
6) The person has a friend who likes you.
It's possible that the person being stared at is the infamous love interest of a close friend, and you sit there staring at him or her thinking, "But how on earth can my buddy actually be falling for him/her? Is (s)he for real?" And you just get lost in observing them. OR, it's possible your friend has even enlisted your help for intel on the love interest. This all to say that you might be caught staring at the person when you have no romantic interest in them at all, although it could easily be interpreted that way, especially if you do it more often than you should and/or ask questions that may seem personal in the interest of helping a friend out.
7) The person is staring not at you but near you.
It can be difficult to tell in crowded spaces if someone is indeed staring at us, next to us, or is looking through us at someone behind us. Therefore, unless that person is really making some heavy-duty eye contact and there is nobody else around, the staring could just be coincidental.
8) The person is a troll and likes creeping people out.
This one is also pretty self-explanatory. Some people just get a thrill out of creeping others out. He or she could also be mentally ill. I remember being in a lecture hall and this older guy with unkempt hair and raggedy clothing would come into the classroom, sit in the corner, and just stare at me and a friend of mine. It absolutely creeped us out. We also saw him tossing a nail in the air, over and over again, outside the lecture hall on more than one occasion. It was bizarre behavior to say the least, and I avoided the area when alone in the evening.
9) The person wants something from you.
The last reason I can think of for why person might be staring at you (besides the fact that they are attracted to you) is because they want something from you. For example, maybe they are trying to determine if you are the person they think you are. Maybe they are trying to size you up to see if you would be a good fit to partner up with them on an assignment. Maybe you are smart and they are considering asking you for tutoring on the side. Maybe they thought that they heard you say their name and were going to speak up about it. There are many reasons. This one alone wouldn't explain daily extended eye contact with you, but it certainly could explain some eye contact on a particular day from a random guy or girl.