Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The pupils are the windows to the mind

Date:
January 28, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
The eyes are the window into the soul -- or at least the mind, according to a new article.

The eyes are the window into the soul -- or at least the mind, according to a new paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Measuring the diameter of the pupil, the part of the eye that changes size to let in more light, can show what a person is paying attention to. Pupillometry, as it's called, has been used in social psychology, clinical psychology, humans, animals, children, infants -- and it should be used even more, the authors say.

The pupil is best known for changing size in reaction to light. In a dark room, your pupils open wide to let in more light; as soon as you step outside into the sunlight, the pupils shrink to pinpricks. This keeps the retina at the back of the eye from being overwhelmed by bright light. Something similar happens in response to psychological stimuli, says Bruno Laeng of the University of Oslo, who cowrote the paper with Sylvain Sirois of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Gustaf Gredebäck of Uppsala University in Sweden. When someone sees something they want to pay closer attention to, the pupil enlarges. It's not clear why this happens, Laeng says. "One idea is that, by essentially enlarging the field of the visual input, it's beneficial to visual exploration," he says.

However it works, psychological scientists can use the fact that people's pupils widen when they see something they're interested in.

Laeng has used pupil size to study people who had damage to the hippocampus, which usually causes very severe amnesia. Normally, if you show one of these patients a series of pictures, then take a short break, then show them another series of pictures, they don't know which ones they've seen before and which ones are new. But Laeng measured patients' pupils while they did this test and found that the patients did actually respond differently to the pictures they had seen before. "In a way, this is good news, because it shows that some of the brains of these patients, unknown to themselves, is actually capable of making the distinction," he says.

Pupil measurement might also be useful for studying babies. Tiny infants can't tell you what they're paying attention to. "Developmental psychologists have used all kinds of methods to get this information without using language," Laeng says. Seeing what babies are interested in can give clues to what they're able to recognize -- different shapes or sounds, for example. A researcher might show a child two images side by side and see which one they look at for longer. Measuring the size of a baby's pupils could do the same without needing a comparison.

The technology already exists for measuring pupils -- many modern psychology studies use eye-tracking technology, for example, to see what a subject is looking at, and Laeng and his coauthors hope to convince other psychological scientists to use this method.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. Laeng, S. Sirois, G. Gredeback. Pupillometry: A Window to the Preconscious? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2012; 7 (1): 18 DOI: 10.1177/1745691611427305

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "The pupils are the windows to the mind." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162800.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, January 28). The pupils are the windows to the mind. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162800.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "The pupils are the windows to the mind." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162800.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins