Blue Eyed Liars

January 31, 2013

Eva Gusnowski

As a blue-eyed betty, I like to think I’m quite a trustworthy person. But compared to you brown-eyed ladies and gents, apparently I’m out to lunch.

A recent study looked at the trustworthiness of blue-eyed men and women compared to brown eyed men and women. 80 pictures of either blue- or brown-eyed people taken in a standard format and without the use of cosmetics were shown to a group of students. These students (with a variety of eye colors themselves) rated the group of photos for trustworthiness on a scale of 1-10: 1 meaning the picture depicted a very trustworthy person while the 10 meaning the picture was of a very untrustworthy person. The investigators controlled for the raters’ own eye color as well. For male faces, there was no change on the ratings of trustworthiness: brown eyes were always rated as more trustworthy. However, female faces did show a different story: blue-eyed female faces were seen as more untrustworthy by brown-eyed raters than other eye colors. Instead, brown-eyed raters gave brown-eyed female faces a much more trustworthy rating. When taken altogether, raters’ eye color was not found to be a major factor deciding trustworthiness, but rather this rating system found that individuals with brown eyes were found to be more trustworthy than people with blue eyes.


But before you brown-eyed peeps get up on your high horse, the study also looked at facial dimensions. It was found that the brown-eyed men tended to share similar facial shapes with each other, while the blue-eyed men also had a characteristic face shape. The correlation between face shape and eye color in females was not significant, but tended to follow a similar trend. This is thought to be due to the finding that females, in general, tend to have less variation in face shape. Compared to blue-eyed men, brown-eyed gents have a bigger mouth and nose, more prominent eyebrows that are closer together and a broader chin. The female faces tended to follow a similar, albeit less significant trend. Brown-eyed women tended to be narrower, have a more prominent chin, a mouth with upward facing corners and eyes that were closer set. To see if it was eye color or face shape that was influencing trustworthiness, all of the blue eyes in the group of pictures were changed to brown and vice versa. Recoloring the eyes in the photos was not found to change the trustworthiness of the individual faces of men. The original brown-eyed men were still perceived as more trustworthy. In females this was not significant, which is not surprising considering there are no significant correlations between face shape and eye color in females. So it seems as though the facial dimensions, and not the eye color, was the driving force behind the perception of trustworthiness in men. Taking into account that the photos were also rated for dominance and attractiveness, the authors concluded that, at least for men, blue-eyed facial features are smaller and seen as less masculine and therefore are seen as less trustworthy.

So if you’re a blue-eyed car salesperson, sorry, but wearing brown contacts won’t help you. But if you’re a telemarketer, make sure to tell your customers that you have brown eyes. Because after all, a sale’s a sale.


          I only trust one side of this dog.  The other side is bound to tear the trash open.



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