Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes, 'Dominant' Faces and a New Mystery

"Study of Dominant-Looking Men Yields Surprising Result"
LiveScience (June 15, 2010)

"There's something in the faces of brown-eyed white men that makes them come off as more dominant than their blue-eyed peers, a new study suggests. And it isn't their eye color.

"Czech researchers asked a group of 62 people to look at photos of 80 faces – 40 men and 40 women - and rate them for dominance. Then the investigators Photoshopped the faces so the brown eyes were replaced with blue ones and vice versa. A separate group of participants rated the altered images for dominance.

"The results were the same in both cases: Faces of brown-eyed men were rated more dominant than those of blue-eyed men, even when their eyes weren't brown...."

Right now, this line of research is in the 'whaddayaknow!' category. It's interesting, intriguing, suggestive: and very much in need of more data.

"...The effect, which didn't hold for female faces, may have something to do with the shape of brown-eyed men's faces, said study researcher Karel Kleisner of Charles University in Prague. On average, brown-eyed men had broader chins and mouths, larger noses, more closely spaced eyes and larger eyebrows than blue-eyed men...."

The idea that one sort of face - when it's on a man - looks more "dominant" than another is nothing new. The Lemming thinks that the scientific community is coming to grips with the idea that men and women aren't equivalent (July 30, 2009), so that part of the research isn't so much of a surprise.

The linkage of facial characteristics and eye color? Here's what's in the article:

"...More mysterious is why eye color would be so closely associated with facial type, the researchers say...."

Anybody who's seen a lot of Swedes and a lot of Koreans - but I'm getting off-topic. The bottom line is that it looks like there's a pattern that researchers haven't noticed before, in what people look like: on average.

Appearance, Socialization, and Eyes

I've got a personal interest in blue-eyed people, since I'm one of them. That's my eye, to your right.

It's likely enough that eye color could, on average, influence how people act toward each other. It also looks like what researchers know is more speculation than actual evidence. For example, the article says blue-eyed children might be treated as if they're a little younger than their normal peers. Or, not.

What's even more interesting, for me, is the probability that blue eyes - and whatever else goes with them - are a new wrinkle for humanity. Last excerpt from the LiveScience article:

"...Researchers believe blue eyes didn't exist until sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, when a genetic mutation emerged that reduced production of the brown pigment melanin in the iris. Before that, everyone had brown eyes.

"There are now half a dozen different genes that influence whether someone will have blue or brown eyes. One possibility, according to the researchers, is that these same genes that confer eye color have other effects on the body or are in close proximity to other genes that do...."

Another Mystery to Unravel

Over the last half-century, people have learned quite a lot: about how stars work; what's in our genes; and what glial cells may be used for. Along the way, we've discovered new fields that we didn't know existed before. Given the choice between being frustrated at the difficulty of keeping up and enjoying the flow of new knowledge, I'll the excitement of discovery.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:
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