Eyes are Windows to the Soul

If you have heard people saying that the eyes are windows to the soul and wondered what they meant, here is an easy explanation that you might enjoy reading.

What exactly does a person see when they gaze into another person's eyes?

It may surprise you to learn that the eyes provide plenty of information about a person's emotional state as well as their general state of health.

Let's get into this, because it's actually pretty fascinating!

Emotional Revelations

eyes are windows to the soulA person's emotions are mirrored in their eyes.

And when someone knows what to look for, they can glean a lot of information about the person's state of mind at that particular moment in time.

Some signs are very obvious and most people are able to decode what they are seeing at an unconscious level.

Take for example when a person is sad or worried:

The first sign is they will furrow their brow.

This makes the eyes appear smaller and we naturally decode this to mean the person is unhappy about something.

The opposite emotion is revealed when a person is cheerful and happy and we even refer to them as being "bright-eyed."

That's because the eyebrows are raised when they're happy and this makes the eyes appear larger and brighter.

The eyes provide us with a means for determining an attraction between two people that are on similar emotional wavelengths.

A Smile, Real or Fake

We can tell when someone is really smiling (a Duchenne smile) or if they are faking it by looking at their eyes.

The mouth can be easily drawn into a smile with raised corners whether we are being genuine or faking it whether out of politeness or to hide our true feelings in that moment. However, when we also take in the eyes, we can see whether the smile is real or fake.

This is because when a person is truly happy, the smiling mouth is accompanied by the eyes displaying a crinkle the corners creating a "crow's feet" pattern. However, when the smile is faked, the muscles around the eyes remain unchanged and the smile appears forced, inconsistent and not at all genuine.

Look Into My Eyes

The belief that the eyes really are the windows into the soul surely comes from their expressiveness in relation to what a person is thinking about or feeling emotionally.

At the same time, the pupils of the eye are actually physical openings into the eye. Their job is to allow light to pass into the eye, acting much like the aperture of a camera.

They dilate or contract depending on how bright the light is and regulate the amount of light that can enter the eyes before the visual image is focused by the lens situated behind the pupils

The pupils appear smaller in bright light and become larger in low light. This is known as the "pupillary light reflex." However, aside from the physical traits of the pupils, more is going on than just regulating light intensity.

An article published by psychologists Sebastiaan Mathôt and Stefan Van der Stigchel in Current Directions in Psychological Science[1] argues that there is much more to the pupillary light response. The claim is that the size of the pupils reveals much about the person's emotions and intentions.

The researchers said that the pupillary light response is more than a mechanical reaction to the ambient light intensity. As our gaze is shifted from one spot to another, the pupils also adjust their size to the amount of light expected to be encountered at the new location in advance.

Stress Response

Another reason the pupils will change size is when our sympathetic nervous system is invoked in response to imminent danger. This stress response causes the pupils to dilate as the body's systems are placed on alert in readiness to defend itself or to escape the danger, otherwise referred to as the "fight or flight" response[2].

When the danger is passed and we can relax, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over, restoring the breathing and heart rate to normal, reactivating our immune system and our self-healing systems. Our pupils also return to their normal size depending on the amount of light they are allowing in.

A Precursor to Dating

A similar response is visible in the pupils when we are aroused sexually. The eyes dilate, giving away to an observer what we are feeling right at that moment.

This response also occurs when we are looking at a person we are attracted to physically and/or sexually.

Dilated pupils are an easily decodable signal between two people that are interested in each other in this way. Most women are more naturally attuned to decoding this visual signal from a man, yet a man can often tell when a woman wants him without necessarily being consciously aware of the telltale sign.

Dilated pupils are something that occurs at an unconscious level, making it very difficult to fake, especially in a situation where two people are really attracted to each other. We are also able to unconsciously decode this physical signal as one of the body language secrets, which is why we find we can be attracted to someone but may not consciously realize why.


While the eyes may not actually allow us to see directly into a person's soul, since we still don't really understand what the soul is, they do provide us with an insight into the way a person is feeling, what they may be thinking about and whether or not they are attracted to us.

The eyes can tell us when a person is happy or when they are angry along with many other emotional states between the two polar opposites. This knowledge is often utilized by interviewers in a variety of situations as a self help mechanism to read their counterparts when dealing with people.

The good thing is that we don't need to be expert "eye readers" to be able to decode these signals, as most of that processing is done unconsciously.


  1. New Light on the Mind's Eye: The Pupillary Light Response as Active Vision
  2. How the Fight or Flight Response Works