How To Read People’s Eyes: Know the Clues and What They Mean

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

how to read people's eyes

Not too long ago, scientists discovered that the eyes really are “the window to the soul.” Truly, eyes tell us a lot about a person. Researchers from Orebro University in Sweden found that patterns in the iris can suggest whether someone is “warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive.”

As an ophthalmologist, I spend my days looking into people’s eyes for the purpose of diagnosis and assessing patients’ vision health. I’m no expert when it comes to behavioral neuroscience (which is also known as biological psychology or applying the principles of biology to the study of human behavior), but the growing research and anecdotal discourse about eye language certainly do offer an array of ideas to ponder. Read on to see what your eyes could be saying about you.

Covering The Eyes

In her article, What the Eyes Tell You About Lying and Hidden Emotions, behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards says blocking or shielding the eyes with our hands is often something we do when we literally do not like what we see. “You will see this when people feel threatened by something or are repulsed by what they are hearing or seeing,” she writes. This is an indicator of un-happy behavior. Eye blocking is powerful display of consternation, disbelief or disagreement.”

Pupils Dilating

Ophthalmological speaking, pupil dilation occurs for various reasons—from chemically-induced dilation (which can occur with certain narcotics) to environmentally produced dilation (which can happen, say, when you enter a dark room and your pupils dilate to let in more light). But in the area of research known as pupillometrics, which is the study of pupil size as an indicator of emotion, pupil dilation is typically discussed as an expression of physical or psychological pleasure.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.39.00 PM
Courtesy of National Eye Institute’s “What is a comprehensive dilated eye exam?” at nei.nih.gov

Blinking

From an eye health perspective, blinking is a necessary function of the eyes because it clears away dust particles and promotes eye lubrication. Blinking also keeps eyes safe from potentially damaging stimuli such as bright lights. With body language decoding, however, excessive blinking (and eye-rubbing, too) gives off a sense that the person who’s blinking is unhappy or angry. It’s akin to the aforementioned covering of the eyes or eye-blocking that says, “I don’t like what I’m hearing or seeing.”

Squinting

Squinting can mean suspicion. “If you see someone squint at you (and it is not low light) address them directly and clarify your point,” writes Van Edwards. “They will often be amazed you picked up on their disbelief.”

Eyebrow Movement

Says Van Edwards:

“We raise our eyebrows in a quick flash to draw attention to the face to be able to send clear communication signals. I have noticed I do this when I want to be understood or emphasize a point. Raising the eyebrows is a gesture of congeniality and hoping to get along and communicate better.”

Sources:

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