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Are our eyes really ‘windows to the soul’?

11 December 2015



There are a lot of different reasons that our pupils may dilate – turning the light on and off can have a simple effect on them, and you’ll have noticed that over the years. When it’s dark, the pupil has to expand to let more light in, and adversely they have to let less light in when it’s bright outside. Other things can affect your pupils, such as drugs or pain-killers, but the most interesting change to your pupils comes when you see someone that you think is attractive, or are in love with.


This poses the question – are our eyes really the windows to our souls? Some historical bio-psychologists certainly thought so, and it does seem like you can observe a reaction in the pupils when someone sees a person that they have a physical and psychological connection with, especially if this means you think someone is attractive.


The opposite of this is also true – because the mind automatically opens our pupils when we are attracted to something, seeing dilated pupils means that the same effect happens. Our minds can be tricked into thinking that the other person is attracted to us, and the dilated pupils is the easiest way to do this. Interestingly, if you find someone unattractive, or don’t like them, your pupils will contract, and it can be incredibly obvious how you really feel about someone if you look at their eyes.


Although this is a good way to gauge how someone feels about you, you can also see how they feel about anything that is good to look at, and visually appealing. Cute animals, amazing food, stunning scenery and even new and extraordinary things can affect the pupil, as studied by those that research pupillometrics.


One famous bio-psychologist, Eckhard Hess, studied the ideas of pupillometrics with his assistant, a man named James Polt. When Hess showed images to Polt that he liked or disliked, including attractive women, Polt’s pupils dilated to some degree. They then expanded their research and showed pictures of these women to men, and made sure that the women had differing degrees of pupil dilation. On average, the men chose the women with the most dilated pupils, and believed that they were the most attractive in the series of images.


This study was also backed up years later by a research team at Edinburgh University, this time with women also looks at images of men, and it was found that it was not at all gender-based, but instead just simply something that is inherent in all people. It was also concluded that – while more attractive on average – the dilation of the pupil did not automatically meant that someone who saw them thought they were attractive and it was, as it often is with human nature, a matter of opinion when it came to beauty.


So, it really can be said that eyes are the windows to the soul. By looking into someone’s eyes you can get a fairly accurate idea of if they like or dislike something, and you can see if they well and truly love the thing that they are looking at, or if they can’t stand it.


Now you just have to take your Secret Santa to the shops and stare into their eyes as they look at the shop fronts, and that will save you asking what they want as a gift. It might make for an awkward shopping trip too though.

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