dilated pupils

We’ve all heard the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul, but did you know that your eyes can actually communicate a lot about you, based on the dilation of your pupils? Read on to find out

Read on to find out what psychologists have declared your dilated pupils are telling others.

1. I’m deep in thought

Dilated pupils can mean you are thinking hard. Being asked a difficult question that requires a lot of thought will make your pupils grow greatly, as explained by Hess & Polt (1964) [1].

2. My brain is struggling

When your brain is overloaded with information, your pupils can become constricted. Poock (1973) [2] claimed that once the brain was overloaded to 125%, a decrease in the size of the pupil occurred.

3. I’m brain damaged

One of the most common uses for shining lights into patient’s eyes is to see if there is any brain damage. If the pupils are equal, round and react to light – you’re healthy; if not, brain damage may have occurred.

4. I’m interested in what you’re saying

Pupils can also determine if somebody is interested in what you’re saying. White & Maltzman (1977) carried out a test where they gave participants audiobooks of varying levels of interest. Our pupils tend to dilate initially when we’re introduced to something new, as our interest is piqued. However, they will only stay dilated if we remain interested in the topic.

5. I’m sexually aroused

When men or women are sexually aroused, their pupils dilate. Bernick et al. (1971) [3] explored this further, however, some argue that they weren’t sexually aroused when their pupils dilated, they were just interested in the nude form, as in point 4.

6. I’m disgusted

Hess (1972) explored how pupils can constrict when an individual is disgusted. His study consisted of showing participants images of injured children and the result was similar across all participant pools – their pupils widened at first due to shock, but quickly constricted as the disgust set in.

7. I’m on drugs

Some drugs cause the pupils to dilate, others to constrict. Police are well aware of the exact mm dilations that determine what drugs a person may be on and can use it to their advantage.

The eyes do certainly communicate a lot but to the untrained eye, it can become confusing when there are so many different reasons for a change in pupil size. Now that you know what generally makes pupils dilate and constrict, have you noticed it in others?


[1] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/143/3611/1190

[2] http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pms.1973.37.3.1000

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5112331

[4] http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/12/what-the-eyes-reveal-10-messages-my-pupils-are-sending-you.php

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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.