HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS > EYES : the Window of the Soul

Your Eyes Really Are the Window to Your Soul



Author's page :
The Eyes are the mirror to the soul
September 25, 2015
by Itunu   

In Psychology a few years back we learnt about non-verbal communication and one part that really stuck out to  me was the importance of eye-contact and how it makes you seem more trust worthy, engaged and confident.

Although it sounds effortless, keeping eye contact is one of those things that many of us struggle with. When you talk to someone and they look directly in your eyes there’s the tendency to look away or feel a bit awkward with your thoughts going a bit hay-wire (is there something on my face, in my teeth, ... ?) and it can all become very stressful.

Over the past couple of years I have had to talk to a variety of new people and every time I do, I get a little flashback of ‘eye contact is important Itunu’. Sometimes looking into someone’s eyes is really easy and you don’t even think about it, especially when you feel really comfortable with them, but other times it’s pretty difficult.

The weirdest thing is that sometimes you don’t realise how beautiful people are until you actually look into their eyes.

Forget the whole, eye contact makes you look engaged, confident blah blah blah, eye contact literally helps you connect with a person. It never fails to surprise me just how much you can get from a person by looking into their eyes; you can see that little sparkle, the colours, their emotions- it’s pretty amazing.

‘The eyes are the mirror to the soul’ is a well-known quote/proverb ,dating from biblical days, and it is one that I often disregarded, but now I think it is one the most underrated quotes ever.

Right, why on earth is Itunu writing about eyes? I hear you say It’s really not that serious, I hear you say. In fact, looking into people’s eyes is pretty weird, I hear you say. Well let me explain this sudden desire to write a whole blog post about eyes.

I stumbled upon something called ‘Human the movie’ by Yann Arthus- Bertrand a few weeks ago. There was a link to it on the Google home page, and since I have never seen Google promote something like that, I had to click on it. I was then taken to a YouTube video simply titled ‘Human’ and it had little snippets of interviews of people of all different ages and nationalities. These interviews consisted of the interviewee’s face of in front of a black screen; no distractions, just the person, their voice and subtitles.

After watching a few videos I did some research about ‘Human the movie’ and found this synopsis:

    HUMAN is a collection of stories about and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. Through these stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, HUMAN brings us face to face with the Other, making us reflect on our lives. From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal. Our Earth is shown at its most sublime through never-before-seen aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world, providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.

    HUMAN is a politically engaged work which allows us to embrace the human condition and to reflect on the meaning of our existence.

What I loved the most about the videos was the fact that you could see the faces of each person being interviewed so clearly; every wrinkle, spot, freckle- you could see it all. The thing that struck me the most, however, were the eyes of each person speaking.

When you looked into the eyes of every person interviewed, despite them being of different colours and on different people of various races, they were all the same. Every person had those sparkling pair of eyes that made you feel every word they were saying. It felt like you were alone having an intimate, deep conversation with each person, apart from you weren’t asking the questions and they were talking through a computer screen.

Despite all those boundaries, you felt what they were saying and you felt that they were speaking directly to you because you were close enough to see into their eyes. Close enough to see the pain, hurt and happiness and witness how the sparkle in their eyes dimmed and brightened depending on what was being said.

It was beautiful.

On a TV show Tamera Mowry said (and I’m paraphrasing) that one of the greatest lessons that she learnt was to look directly into people’s eyes, and since learning that every time she has an issue with her husband she will sit down, look into his eyes and speak to him.

Keeping eye contact does show confidence, and engagement etc. but it also shows I care about your feelings, and I want to understand you.

I am not saying that you should go around staring into people’s eyes, we’ve all watched far too many movies to know that someone may take you completely the wrong way, or think you’re creepy, but practice eye contact.

Practice actually looking at people when you talk to or simply smile at them, because it feels so much different from fiddling with your phone or bracelet or going into panic mode as mentioned above.

People will find you more approachable, because you look like you care and in a world that can feel very self-obsessed, caring is sometimes all you need to make the world, even if it’s your tiny little world, that little bit happier.

Keep Smiling!

Itunu x

Human, the movie by Yann Arthus- Bertrand (full movie, 2H30)



Author's page :
Your Eyes Really Are the Window to Your Soul

Pupils never lie.

Posted Dec 31, 2015
by David Ludden, Ph.D.

People often call eyes the windows to the soul. But what exactly do we see when we gaze into the eyes of another person? In fact, the eyes do provide lots of information about another person’s emotional state.

When people are sad or worried, they furrow their brow, which makes the eyes look smaller. Yet when people are cheerful, we correctly call them “bright eyed.” That’s because people raise their eyebrows when they’re happy, making the eyes look bigger and brighter.

We can tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a fake by looking at a person's eyes. The mouth shape of a smile is easy to fake—we do it all the time out of politeness. But the eyes are the giveaway: When we’re truly happy, we not only smile but also crinkle the corners of our eyes in a “crow’s feet” pattern. But when people fake a smile, they usually forget about their eyes.

If the eye is the window into the soul, the pupil is—quite literally—an opening into the eye. The pupil acts like the aperture on a camera, dilating or contracting to regulate the amount of light coming into the eye. We all know that our pupils get smaller in the light and bigger in the dark. This is the pupillary light response.

In an article published in a recent issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychologists Sebastiaan Mathôt and Stefan Van der Stigchel argue that there’s a lot more to the pupillary light response than, well, meets the eye. They claim that the size of the pupils tells us a lot about the emotions and intentions of their owners.

According to the researchers, the pupillary light response isn’t just a mechanical reaction to ambient light. Rather, as we shift our gaze from one spot to another, our pupils adjust their size in advance to the amount of light we expect to encounter at the new location.

Consider working at a computer : Most of the time, our gaze is fixed on the bright screen, so our pupils are contracted. But every now and then, we glance down at the keyboard, as when we need to reposition our fingers. The authors of the article claim that the pupils begin to dilate even before the downward eye movement begins. Because the pupillary light response is relatively slow—about a quarter of a second—anticipating the amount of light at the new location improves vision once our gaze gets there. (All of this, of course, operates below the level of consciousness.)

The pupillary light response is only one reason why the pupils change size. They also dilate when we’re aroused. The body has an alarm network called the autonomic nervous system that prepares us to take action whenever we detect a threat—or an opportunity—in our environment.

Encounter a bear while walking through the woods, and your autonomic nervous system goes on alert. Your heart and breath rates increase, you begin to sweat as your muscles tense up, and, among other bodily reactions, your pupils dilate. The autonomic nervous system prepares your body to take action against the threat—perhaps scampering up the nearest tree.

We also need to take action when we encounter opportunities. Meet an attractive person at a party, and what happens to your body? Your heart and breathing rates increase, you begin to sweat—and your pupils dilate.

Psychologists consider pupil dilation to be also an honest cue to sexual or social interest. That’s because pupil size isn’t under your voluntary control. Let’s say you’re trying to fake interest as your coworker recounts every play in his weekend golf game. You can force a smile. You might even remember to crinkle the corners of your eyes, to make that smile look real. But your tiny pupils will reveal your lack of interest.

Arousal increases pupil size irrespective of the amount of ambient light present because optimal pupil size involves a trade-off between two factors. The first is visual acuity, or how well you can see the details of whatever you’re looking at. In this case, you need “Goldilocks” pupils—not too bright and not too dark, with just the right amount of light coming in. Thus, the pupillary light response is important for visual acuity.

The second factor is visual sensitivity, or how well you can detect something that’s in the environment. If you want to really see what’s out there, you need to have your eyes—especially your pupils—wide open. This is where the connection between arousal and pupil dilation comes in.

Psychologists consider pupil size in terms of the two functions of vision—exploration and exploitation. When we’re exploring our environments, we’re on the lookout for threats and opportunities, so we’re in a heightened state of arousal. Visual sensitivity is most important in exploration, so our pupils are wide open, taking in as much visual information as possible.

Once we’ve identified an object of interest and have it under our control, we shift to exploitation mode: We need to examine the item carefully to find all the ways we can use it, to understand it as fully as possible. Now, visual acuity is most important, and our pupils dilate or contract so that just the right amount of light comes in.

The so-called pupillary light response isn’t just a mechanical reaction to the amount of ambient light, as is the aperture on a camera. Instead, the pupils also adjust according to our emotions and expectations. Thus, the eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the pupils tell a lot about what’s going on in the mind of another person.

Reference :

Mathôt, S. & Van der Stigchel, S. (2015). New light on the mind’s eye: the pupillary light response as active vision. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 374-378.

David Ludden is the author of The Psychology of Language: An Integrated Approach (SAGE Publications).


Author's page :
The Eyes Are The Windows To The Soul
By Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
Jan 4, 2009

    Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states.

While I was reading some postings in our support community this morning it occurred to me that the issue of “eye contact” is actually quite important. Several people were commenting about their struggles with making eye contact in their communications with medical doctors and other types of “authority figures.” Therefore, I thought it important to write this posting about “eyes” in order to discuss the various meanings of making and avoiding eye contact.

Of course, the meaning of the words “The eyes are the windows to the soul” is that by looking into the eyes of a person one can see their hidden emotions and attitudes and thoughts.

Studies in psychology show that the human infant responds directly to parental eye contact. In fact, even the youngest infants prefer staring at any shapes that resemble the human face. More than that, they prefer adult faces that stare directly at them rather than with eyes averted. Anyone who has bottle fed or nursed an infant cannot help but notice how the baby”s eyes stare directly into their own. Through this eye contact, the infant learns a lot about human communication and interaction. Considering the fact that much of human interaction is non verbal in nature, eye contact is a major medium through which we communicate our needs and wants.

Language is filled with metaphors referring to eye contact.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis during the early 1960’s it was said that the Soviet Union “blinked first.” The meaning was clear in that the Soviet Union submitted to American pressure. Other metaphors are those such as: He or she had a “cold stare,” the eyes were “steely and hard,” she had a “penetrating look,” shame faced, the child “stared at his shoes,” Through the “fog of war,” it is difficult to see the outcome of battle, “He and I came to see eye to eye,” and their are thousands other such metaphors referring to the eyes.

Having grown up in New York City and frequently travelled the subway system, I soon learned, along with millions of other New Yorkers, the importance of avoiding eye contact with other passengers. The reason was simple: Direct eye contact can easily be mis-perceived by a stranger as a challenge to fight. Many paranoid patients report that the feeling of being stared at feels like an aggressive attack. In fact, some paranoid patients have been known to make drawings of the human head and figure with unusually large eyes. The grossly distorted drawings often represent looking out suspiciously into what is perceived as a dangerous and aggressive world.

In fact, it is often said that, much like in the animal world, when two men who are strangers stare at each other, they are sending the challenging and dangerous message about being willing to fight. This is sometimes verbally expressed as “get out of my face, man!!” Another verbal challenge to the stare is, “What are you staring at, man???” This is said in a loud and aggressive way. People even speak of power struggles with another by “staring them down.” On the other hand, when a man and woman stare at one another, they are communicating sexual interest. The eyes can be used in ways that are coy, seductive and inviting of sexual interest between man and woman.

Many decades ago, before I entered the field of mental health, I was a High School teacher in New York City. It goes without saying that the youngsters in my classes came from culturally diverse backgrounds. Early on I was mystified as to why my students from Puerto Rican backgrounds averted their eyes when speaking to me. Initially, and as a very young man, I feared they were showing me “disrespect.”  I was very young and inexperienced teacher and human being. Where I was raised, parents and teachers demanded eye contact when I was being spoken to. That was a sign of respect. It seemed natural to me that the students were challenging my authority when they refused to make eye contact. I soon learned that I could not be farther from the truth. The fact was that these students, coming from their particular culture, were showing me the greatest respect by averting eye contact. That piece of knowledge turned out to be enormously important to me in helping these, and other young people, learn and advance.

Early in my mental health training there was a young adolescent who, upon seeing me, closed her eyes. This psychotic patient thought that by not seeing me, I would not see her.

Children love to play the staring games with each other. The idea of the game is to see who can stare the longest without laughing or blinking. The child who laughs, blinks or averts the eyes first is the “loser.” In this way, children are engaging in a kind of “arm wrestling contest.” The winner is the “strongest.”

It is commonly known that a child could have serious developmental disabilities, such as autism, if they constantly avoid eye contact. This is a good indicator of a child who has problems with social interaction.

Those who are shy may have difficulty with eye contact out of a sense of embarrassment. This is why blushing can be so very painful for those with a tendency to easily blush when speaking to people. Their discomfort is about the notion that the blush will reveal their shyness. My strategy for people who have struggled with this is to embrace their shyness and openly and proudly admit it.

The eyes are frought with all types of symbolic meanings for human beings.


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