Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wide-eyed fear expressions may help us -- and others -- to locate threats

Date:
May 1, 2013
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
Wide-eyed expressions that typically signal fear seem to enlarge our visual field making it easier to spot threats at the same time they enhance the ability of others to locate the source of danger, according to new research.

Wide-eyed expressions that typically signal fear seem to enlarge our visual field making it easier to spot threats at the same time they enhance the ability of others to locate the source of danger, according to new research.
Credit: Arman Zhenikeyev / Fotolia

Wide-eyed expressions that typically signal fear seem to enlarge our visual field making it easier to spot threats at the same time they enhance the ability of others to locate the source of danger, according to new research from the University of Toronto.

The research by Daniel Lee, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology is published on the Association for Psychological Science's Psychological Science journal website.

"Emotional expressions look the way they do for a reason," says Lee. "They are socially useful for communicating emotional states, but they are also useful as raw physical signals. In the case of widened eyes, they help send a clearer gaze signal that tells observers to 'look there.'"

Lee, his supervisor Adam Anderson also of U of T's psychology department and Joshua Susskind of University of California, San Diego first found that participants who made wide-eyed fear expressions could literally see more: they were able to discriminate visual patterns farther out in their peripheral vision than participants who made neutral expressions or expressions of disgust.

Next, they investigated the benefits that wide-eyed expressions might confer to onlookers. They found that participants were better able to tell which direction a pair of eyes was looking as the eyes became wider. And these wider eyes helped participants respond to targets that were located in the direction of the gaze. Importantly, these benefits did not depend on recognizing the eyes as fearful.

Wide-eyed expressions are helpful for onlookers quite simply because as eyes become wider, we can see more of the iris and whites of the eyes, known as sclera. This directly increases the physical contrast and information signal, making it easier to tell where someone is looking.

"Our eyes are important social signals," says Lee. "This research really shows how social we are wired to be."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. The original article was written by Jessica Lewis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. H. Lee, J. M. Susskind, A. K. Anderson. Social Transmission of the Sensory Benefits of Eye Widening in Fear Expressions. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612464500

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Wide-eyed fear expressions may help us -- and others -- to locate threats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501131657.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2013, May 1). Wide-eyed fear expressions may help us -- and others -- to locate threats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501131657.htm
University of Toronto. "Wide-eyed fear expressions may help us -- and others -- to locate threats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501131657.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
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