January 14, 2013

Trusting The Brown-Eyed Girl

Last week, redOrbit released information on trustworthiness and eye color. The article explained that in a new study published in PLoS Online researchers found that people tended to trust men and women with brown eyes more than they did those with blue eyes. Researchers asked 238 participants to look at the faces of 80 students and rate their trustworthiness (as well as their attractiveness and dominance, but more on that in a bit). The results showed that participants perceived brown eyes as more trustworthy. To better understand why, researchers looked closer into it.

Most significantly, they checked the facial morphology and found a correlation in men. Simply put, the facial features of men with brown eyes tended to accompany larger mouths, broader chins, bigger noses and more prominent eyebrows while blue-eyed men had more angular and prominent lower faces, smaller eyes, longer chins, thinner mouths with corner that pointed downward, and far apart eyebrows. In other words, they looked sadder, and trustworthiness was closely associated with the facial expressions made when happy. Brown-eyed males just look happier at least on a superficial level.

Despite these findings in men, the same facial features did not hold true for women, so facial morphology was not an explanation for why brown-eyed women were more trustworthy. In fact, the study found that not only were brown-eyed women more trustworthy, but it also found women as a whole were more trustworthy than men. So what’s the connection? Researchers are still trying to figure it out, but I wonder if there is a sociological or anthropological reason like women are maternal thus seen as more trustworthy? It might be interesting to look into those areas as well as visual perceptions.

What’s more is that the study also looked at attractiveness and dominance. Researchers found that the three characteristics lined up pretty well with each other, so faces perceived as trustworthy were also perceived as more attractive and dominant.

Both of these are interesting discoveries for those of us with brown eyes. Media shows us that blue eyes, and even green eyes to some extent, are vastly preferred for beauty. Yet science shows that brown eyes are where our instinctual preferences for beauty lie. When we are not being force fed beauty, we lean toward that which is often underrepresented in the media.

Since the media has such a heavy influence upon how we see ourselves, the fact that science is finding that the less focused notions of beauty are those that we trust and prefer means that individuals who struggle with insecurities because they do not have blue eyes, straight blonde hair, and perfect tanned skin can find solace that their brown eyes make people comfortable. Sometimes the unexpected findings of research are the ones that have the greatest impact. I think this might be one of those.

Of course, judging trustworthiness based solely on how someone looks is a bit dangerous. I am not trying to promote that brown-eyed people are in fact more trustworthy. However, the fact that we view brown-eyed individuals—men and women—as those who are more trustworthy is, at the very least, interesting. Furthermore, the finding that women were more trustworthy as a whole is worthy of noting as well. In light of media influences and impositions, the brown-eyed girl takes the lead for attractiveness and trustworthiness. And, frankly, it’s about time that we got some credit.

Image Credit: tommaso lizzul / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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