He folded… and successfully avoided a major loss (his opponent had a full house)! So how did he know to fold? How could he tell? Because Phil watched his opponent’s eyes dilate when he received a certain card during the tournament.
We dilate when we’re attracted. A 2019 study confirms what psychologist Eckhard Hess researched in the ’60s and ’70s-our pupils contract when we see something arousing or do something mentally challenging.
This is a very arousing cue-Hess found that heterosexual men and women dilate when viewing pinups of the opposite sex and constrict when they are viewing same-sex pinups
Similar results were found when people were asked to look at pleasant or unpleasant foods, political figures, a disabled child, war scenes, or to listen to music.
You may notice someone’s pupils growing when you stare at them. This is a good sign! Pupil-size increases are associated with problem solving, and they reach a maximum dilation when a person arrives at the solution 3 .
People rate photos of models as more attractive if the photo has been altered to make their pupils larger 2 . Romantic encounters are most successful in dimly lit places because everyone’s pupils dilate and create the impression of mutual attraction.
In one study, participants were told to choose a partner who was trustworthy, pleasant, and easy to talk to on an intimate basis 4 . They were taken to a room with 2 individuals (rated generally the same attractiveness).
The study found that gazing was an overwhelming factor, but it also included pupil dilation, although nobody mentioned it. But now that you know, you can also look for pupil dilation! Woo!
Fun Fact: If you’re signaling to a man, be patient. A study on eye gaze and found that most men usually required 3 separate gaze signals to “get” that they are being flirted with and sometimes even up to 5 for really slow men!
We dilate when we like objects. Researchers found that pupils dilate more when people see items they’ve seen before, i.e., old vs new items 4 . Watch for this cue when children pick their favorite toys-Sienna’s eyes dilate when she goes for her Frozen dolls!
Another experiment showed photos of food, with subjects being asked their food preferences 4 . The more individuals said they preferred this or that food, the more their pupils expanded. But some individuals showed a poor match. These were people whose eyes dilated, but they said they disliked a food.
Why? They were on a diet but still secretly liked the food! Pupil dilation is something that cannot be controlled.
We dilate when looking at photos of people. Watch for this cue if your manager is shifting through potential applicant resumes. People’s eyes dilate more when viewing photos of liked candidates and constrict for photos of disliked candidates 4 .
We dilate when we’re angry. On the other hand, pupil dilation is not just for positive arousal; angry faces and body cues have been shown to elicit high levels of pupil dilation.
There are cultural differences. White and Asian participants studied faces from their own race and of each other: Researchers learned that participants had more dilated pupils when looking at other races 4 .
Another experiment was carried out with liberal-minded people who were shown photos of black males kissing white females. All subjects said they approved. However, liberals “at heart” had pupils that matched beliefs, but persuaded or pseudo liberals showed pinprick pupils of disapproval.
And other causes. Pupil dilation and constriction can be caused by unrelated events-lighting variation, medical conditions, and even certain drugs can change pupil size.