Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Is Eye Size a Cue of Attraction?

Are larger eyes more attractive? What about huge eyes?

big eyes = cute?
Eyes that are too big are just plain creepy.
I was toy shopping with my daughter who has a penchant for cute stuffed animals, and I noticed something. Many of the stuffed toys had very large eyes—many times normal size. My daughter seemed drawn to these big-eyed toys. So, I started wondering if there was a connection between eye size and attraction. I knew there was research on the size of eye pupil and attraction, suggesting that a wider pupil connotes interest, and that is interpreted as sexually attractive. But what about the size of the entire eye?

It turns out there has been some research manipulating eye size, finding that larger eyes are indeed judged as more attractive. But some of the eyes on the stuffed toys were simply huge. And, I began to wonder. Is there a curvilinear relationship, such that eye size is attractive up to a point? Perhaps if the eye becomes TOO large, it detracts from attractiveness. And then I stumbled on this one stuffed turtle. The manufacturer likely knew the rule: large eyes = attractiveness, but went overboard. This enormous-eyed creature gave me the creeps. I thought of a horror movie from my youth: The Crawling Eye—where enormous alien eyes (with tentacles) terrorize a ski resort.

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Perhaps my hypothesis that many variables are curvilinear—"Too much of anything is bad for you”—applies to eye size (and perhaps the size of other organs and appendages). What are your thoughts?

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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