Body parts. Paired organs of vision, the movements, lid positions, and pupil size of which reveal a great deal about our emotions, convictions, and moods.
Usage: Gaze direction clearly shows others where our attention lies.
We have developed an amazing ability to gaze back into the eyes of our beholders
to gauge their feelings. However, being looked at so arouses the sympathetic
nervous system (see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT) that we may feel compelled to glance
away. Perhaps because the eye's retina is an outgrowth of the
forebrain, peering into someone else's eyes is not unlike seeing into the brain itself. This may be why the sacred Eye of
Horus (the All-Seeing Utchat of Ancient Egypt) had so many complex
Evolution I. Our golf-ball-sized eyes glissade in bony sockets above the nose. Their spherical shape may be traced back to amphibian ancestors of the Carboniferous period (earlier, eyes had been flat and fishlike). Large eyes today accent the horizontal aspect of our face by counteracting the verticality of our nose.
Evolution II. Light-sensitive eyespots originated more than
500 m.y.a. in animals without backbones. Despite their primitiveness, or perhaps
because of it, horizontally paired eyes are the primary focus of the human face
Fascination. We are enthralled by eyes. From the moment of birth we respond to our mother's eyes as if programmed to do so. Babies smile at black geometric spots--perceiving them as "eyes" by six weeks of age (Kandel et al. 1991:994). In adults, eye contact shows personal involvement and creates intimate bonds. Mutual gaze narrows the physical gap between us.
Primatology. As primates, for whom facial expressions provide key social and emotional information, we continually probe each other's eyes for positive or negative mood signs. We are acutely aware of being noticed by strangers. In waiting rooms we periodically glance up and scan for roving eyes (much as do monkeys in a cage).
True feelings. Eyes appear in the human embryo by ca. 22 days of
age. From that time--through an incredible chain of neural commands--eyes
accurately reflect how we feel about and relate to the people in our Nonverbal
World. Eyes convey unpleasant feelings through closed
eyelids and an averted gaze. Positive or provocative feelings show in
opened eyelids, dilated pupils, and direct gaze (cf.
Copyright 1998 - 2013 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies
Photo of "Guileless Eyes" (San Diego, California, USA) by Doreen K. Givens (copyright 2004)