3 Things the Color of Your Eyes Says About You

Research finds that eye color can predict certain human characteristics.

Posted Mar 12, 2018

Nadino/Shutterstock
Source: Nadino/Shutterstock

Charlotte Bronte once wrote: "The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter — often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter — in the eye." While this exceptional writer didn’t have the benefit of modern psychological research to support her thinking, her statement has held up: Recent studies attest that our eyes can convey all sorts of information about who we are to the world. For example, it has been found that our eyes can indicate having a less agreeable nature. 

But can eye color reveal psychological truths about us? Remarkably, research has found that it can. Here are three ways that the color of your eyes may well betray you:

1. “I’m in pain.” 

Can the color of your eyes predict pain sensitivity? Related work has unveiled associations between pain and factors like gender, age, and hair color. Moreover, darker eye color has been found to correlate with greater physiological responsiveness and drug-induced pupil dilation. Building on this research, investigators explored whether eye color and pain are also linked. To that end, they assessed pain, mood, sleep, and coping behaviors in women before and after they gave birth — an experience that is indeed painful. The women were assigned to either the Dark Eyes group (i.e., dark brown or hazel-colored eyes) or the Light Eyes group (i.e., blue or green eyes). What did the researchers find? Women with lighter eyes tolerated the pain of childbirth better than those with darker eyes, and had less postpartum anxiety and depression. In addition, the women with dark-colored eyes experienced a significant reduction in pain with an epidural, suggesting greater pain sensitivity. 

2. “I’m sensitive to alcohol.” 

Can eye color indicate a higher sensitivity to alcohol? Consider a study based on two samples in which people were assessed for eye color and level of alcohol consumption. The first sample was made up of 10,860 white male prison inmates, while the second sample was made up of 1,862 white women in a national survey. In both samples, people with light eyes had consumed significantly more alcohol than people with dark eyes, and people with darker eyes needed to drink comparatively less to become intoxicated. These findings are in keeping with previous work demonstrating that dark-eyed people show greater physiological arousal and greater sensitivity to certain medications than light-eyed people. The authors contend that heightened sensitivity to alcohol in dark-eyed individuals limits them from drinking the large quantities of alcohol that would lead to a physical dependence.

3. “I like women with blue eyes."

Do people couple up on the basis of eye color? It may seem farfetched, but research lends some support to the idea. This work was founded on the evolutionary concept of paternity certainty, which maintains that fathers will invest in children if they are assured that the children are theirs. This is where blue eyes come in, as they are a clear genetic mechanism of inheritance. Thus, the investigators reasoned, men with blue eyes may well prefer and feel greater attraction to women with blue eyes, because it assures them that they haven’t been cheated on. 

To put this idea to the test, researchers had participants rate for attractiveness photographs featuring close-ups of men and women with either blue or brown eyes. The results were striking: Participants with both blue eyes and brown eyes showed no preference for the male models of either eye color. Similarly, brown-eyed men didn’t demonstrate a preference for either blue-eyed or brown-eyed female models either. But men with blue eyes found the models with blue eyes to be more attractive than those with brown eyes. A second study asked young men and women with blue, brown, or green eyes what color eyes their significant others had. Once again, men with blue eyes were most likely to have had partners with blue eyes. Taken together, the authors maintain, blue-eyed men prefer blue-eyed women, in order to reduce paternity uncertainty.          

References

Eye color predicts alcohol use in two archival samples.  September 2001.  Personality and Individual Differences 31(4):535-539.

Jonathan F Bassett and James M. Dabbs Jr

Why do blue-eyed men prefer women with the same eye color?  January 2007.  Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61(3):371-384.  Bruno Laeng & Ronny Mathisen & Jan-Are Johnsen

Correlation between eye color and pain phenotypes in healthy women.  April 2014.  Journal of Pain 15(4):S25.  C. TengI. Belfer