Eyes and Emotions

Eyes are truly the windows to the soul. Our eyes respond to external stimuli immediately and uncontrollably, whether we wear prescription glasses or not. From these complex orbs we can discern a person’s potential mood and gauge their reaction to their surroundings. Eyes have become something of a universal symbol for mood and emotions. It’s one of many reasons why animation studios still gravitate towards big, doe-eyed characters. 

The most obvious way our eyes betray us is with tears. When you start tearing up near the end of that dog movie, it can be hard to deny that you’re not feeling at least a little sad. But there are so many other ways our eyes link to our emotions.

Here are the different ways our eyes can give away what we’re feeling.

Pupils

Sight is a team effort. It can be easy to think of our eyes as a single unit responsible for how we see, but there are a lot of complex processes contributing to our eyesight. Our pupils play a big role in how we process and decode light. When our eyes want or need to take in more, pupils dilate. If we need or want to see less, they constrict. Oftentimes this is a response to brightness, but our pupils also dilate when we see something exciting or interesting.

Because of this, pupils can be a big clue to someone’s emotional state. Many areas of psychology focus closely on the pupil. A pupillary reaction is often so fast that it beats out other physical reactions. Looking into someone’s eyes can give you insight into their emotional state before even they have realized how they feel. That said, lighting conditions tend to override emotional ones when it comes to the pupils, so don’t forget to take into account your surroundings before making any eye-based emotional judgments.

Eyebrows

Our faces are very expressive overall, and many emotional cues are tied to areas of the face other than the eyes. Eyebrows, for example, are not technically part of the eye, but are so closely associated with eyes that we often conflate the two. If someone asked you to draw a picture of some eyes, you would probably include the eyebrows without even thinking about it.

The main purpose of eyebrows is to act as the first line of defense for keeping debris and allergens from entering our eyes and wreaking havoc. Our eyebrows can furrow, raise and lower. Some of the more talented among us can even control each eyebrow individually.

Raised eyebrows are typically indicators of surprise or fear, while lowered or tightened eyebrows are associated with concentration, anger, and suspicion. Prescription eyeglasses can sometimes alter our perception of how high or low someone’s eyebrows are.

Eyelids

How wide open a person’s eyes are is another sign of their emotional state. Our eyes respond to stimuli around us. We widen our eyes when we’re curious because it helps us take in more of our surroundings. Discriminating emotions like suspicion and anger tend to lead to narrowed eyes as our brains seek to block out the unwanted or untrustworthy stimulus.

Eye movement

You may have heard that people look up and to the right when they lie. While this ages-old myth might not be the most reliable way to call out the liars, there are some eye movements that typically indicate certain emotions or feelings.

  • Glancing sideways

Looking to the side without moving one’s head is typically associated with suspicion, confusion or even flirtation. Glancing sideways without moving the head is a way of trying to take in more information without being noticed.

  • Looking down

It’s all in the position of the head. Looking down with a hung head? Probably a sign of sadness or embarrassment. Looking down with a head held high, however, is usually an intimidating move by someone who feels superior in some way.

  • Darting eyes

A person’s darting eyes are likely looking for an escape route, perhaps even subconsciously. Our eyes dart around our environment when we feel trapped or threatened.

Why are our eyes so expressive?

It all comes down to evolution. Humans are social creatures. Our ancestors survived largely thanks to their ability to communicate. Coordinated hunts and cooperative living groups were all bolstered by our expressive eyes.

It is likely that our articulate eyes first developed as a way to better understand the world around us. And it makes sense: our eyes widen to help us take in more of our environment, and conversely, they squint to keep it out. Incorporating these expressions into interpersonal communication likely developed later on.

Protect your eyes

Eyes are great for signaling emotion and intent, but don’t forget their primary function is sight. Keep your eyesight protected with appropriate eyewear. Remember to wear goggles in the pool and sunglasses in the sun. For prescription needs, order glasses online from 39DollarGlasses.com to keep your vision at its best.

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