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Eye Color: More Than Meets the Eye

March 7, 2019

Could the color of a person’s eyes reveal things about them? Science says it can. Modern psychological research has shown that pain sensitivity, drinking habits, and even dating preferences can often be accurately predicted based on eye color. Though eye color doesn’t cause us to be the way we are, it does correlate with certain traits. In holding clues about deeper aspects of ourselves, different eye colors may serve an evolutionary advantage in helping human beings to “read” each other.

Pain sensitivity.

People with dark eyes (brown or hazel) evidence greater sensitivity to pain than their light-eyed peers. A study was conducted where researchers assessed women’s’ mood, sleeping patterns, pain perception and coping behaviors before and after giving birth. They discovered that those with light eyes withstood the pain of childbirth better than those with darker eyes, and exhibited less postpartum psychological distress. Furthermore, dark-eyed women who were given an epidural reported significantly greater pain reduction than did women with light eyes who were given the same drug. This finding suggested to researchers that those with dark eyes are more sensitive to pain and are also more sensitive to pain-alleviating medication.  

Drinking habits.

Not only does eye color correlate with pain sensitivity, but also with alcohol sensitivity. In a study conducted with two samples that assessed eye color in relationship to alcohol consumption, some interesting findings emerged.

The first sample was comprised of nearly 11,000 white prison inmates and the second sample of nearly 2,000 white women. In both samples, those with light eyes had a history of significantly greater alcohol consumption than those with dark eyes. Those with light eyes, however, required more alcohol than those with dark eyes to become intoxicated. In other words, though light eyed people drank more than dark eyed people, they didn’t necessarily translate to greater drunkenness. These findings go hand-in-glove with other studies indicating that those with dark eyes evidence greater physiological arousal and drug sensitivity.

Dating preferences.

Eye color might have more to do with our attraction to a romantic partner than we realize. Research suggests that the evolutionary concept of paternity certainty may shed some light on the role of eye color in selecting a mate. Essentially, this concept says that fathers are more likely to bond with and provide for children that they can identify as their genetic offspring. Particularly prior to widespread cross-cultural and inter-ethnic marriage, blue eye color (for a blue-eyed father) was a highly reliable indicator of paternity. 

It is this reasoning that researchers used to explain their findings that blue-eyed men tend to be more attracted than dark-eyed men to women with blue eyes. Men with brown eyes who were shown photos of women with brown and blue eyes showed no preference for either color. But blue-eyed men repeatedly showed a preference for blue-eyed mates, leading researchers to surmise that the evolutionary drive for paternity certainty was behind this finding.

Whatever your eye color, OCLI is delighted to be your full-service vision health provider. Whether you’re seeking eyeglasses, contact lenses, routine vision screening, cataract surgery, laser vision correction, dry eye treatment or any other eye-related solution, we’re New Jersey’s most comprehensive eye care specialists. Reach out to us today and see why we’re known as the friendliest eye care professionals around.     


Eye color predicts alcohol use in two archival samples. September 2001. Personality and Individual Differences 31(4):535-539. Jonathan F Bassett and James M. Dabbs Jr

Why do blue-eyed men prefer women with the same eye color? January 2007. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61(3):371-384. Bruno Laeng & Ronny Mathisen & Jan-Are Johnsen

Correlation between eye color and pain phenotypes in healthy women. April 2014. Journal of Pain 15(4):S25. C. TengI. Belfer

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