Reading Emotions: Do You See What Eyes See?

Posted on 2014/04/15 at 5:03 pm by Sabrina Thomas

Everyone knows the old adage—eyes are “windows to the soul,” a way to understand what someone else feels without the need for words. But is reading emotions really possible with nothing more than a glance? Are eyes really so transparent?

Take the Quiz

According to a New York Times article, absolutely. The piece takes the form of a small quiz, with 36 black-and-white pictures featuring sets of eyes, each with four emotional choices underneath. Originally featured in a Harvard University study, the questions begin with a set of eyes looking straight at the camera. Four choices—playful, comforting, irritated, and bored—surround the image, but which one is correct? Playful, says the quiz, and offers 35 more pictures with answers from preoccupied to friendly to downright despondent. If you score 30 or more, chances are you’re good at reading emotions just by looking at a person’s eyes, while if you come in under 22 this may be more of a challenge.

Emotion and Eyesight

But how do eyes bring emotion to the surface? There are several factors. First, pupils dilate or shrink in response to emotion. Scientific American reports that actions that require intense concentration, such as solving math problems, cause pupils to dilate. Relaxation, meanwhile, causes pupils to contract. Eyelids and eyebrows are also good emotional indicators. Furrowed brows and narrowed eyelids might indicate worry, nervousness, or panic, while a more open expression denotes friendliness or compassion. Finally, there’s some evidence to suggest colour skew in response to intense emotion, especially for people with blue, green, or hazel eyes. Although no hard evidence exists to confirm this linkage, it’s possible that neurochemicals released in a heightened emotional state can impact the colour of your eyes.

Seeing Is Believing

Several factors can impact your ability to read eye emotions or handicap the ability of others to read you. Lighting and weather can conspire to change eye colour and alter overall appearance, while eyeglasses can distort the true shape of your eyes, and anyone with untreated eye health issues may be pegged as irritable or worried because they always squint. In addition, there are many subtle details in and around the eyes that affect emotional perception—if your own eyesight is poor, reading emotions in other people may be difficult.

One way to potentially improve emotional intelligence is laser vision correction. Doing away with glasses or contacts lets you get a better look at the subtle cues of family and friends, and it gives them the advantage of seeing your eyes uncovered by glasses or contacts. Laser procedures such as Custom Wavefront LASIK are fast and painless, and they can be used to correct common vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

Together, eyes and subtle facial expressions really do offer a window into unspoken emotions; LASIK MD can help improve your ability to see and be seen.

Do you have a question about LASIK? Ask one of our experts!

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