Wrinkled Eyes Make You Appear More Genuine, Study Shows

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A new study has shed light on how our brains are wired to perceive eye wrinkles. The creases that appear around our eyes when we emote play an important role in how others perceive our feelings, according to researchers. Getty Images

Whether we are belly-laughing or shooting daggers from across a room, the creases that appear around our eyes when we emote play an important role in how others perceive our feelings, according to researchers.

Known as the Duchenne marker, the lines around our eyes accompany many facial expressions, from pain to happiness.

Professor Daniel Messinger of the University of Miami department of psychology who lead the research said in a statement: "Since Darwin, scientists have wondered if there is a language of facial expression, a key set of what we call facial actions that have simple, basic meanings.

"This research suggests one key to this language is constriction of the eyes, which appears to intensify both positive and negative expressions. This is the first study addressing this issue in adults since Darwin's provocative observations."

To understand whether our brains are wired to process the appearance of the Duchenne marker as a sign of sincerity, the researchers used a technique called visual rivalry where each eye is shown a different image. When the brain is presented with two different images, it will focus on the one that is most important to process.

The team showed participants computer-generated avatars either with or without the Duchenne marker, and asked them to rate the expressions according to how intense and sincere they appeared. The experiment revealed that avatars with Duchenne markers were more likely to be associated with intense feelings of happiness and sadness than those without.

Our eye wrinkles appear to be important, therefore, because our brains need to understand whether a person is sincere or not when we engage in social interactions, Julio Martinez-Trujillo, a professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in Canada, explained in a statement.

"My interest now is: What will be the results if we do this same test with people with autism spectrum disorder? They often have trouble reading out emotions from other people, so we wonder if that might have to do with their ability to read this marker for sincerity," he said.

The research also offers new insight into why faces move a specific way when we feel certain emotions, and how that in turn affects how we understand our feelings.

The paper published in the journal Emotion comes after a separate study published in the journal PLOS One investigated how well we can identify facial expressions in our peripheral vision.

The researchers found that the brain can recognize happiness and surprise well in our peripheral vision, while it is less successful at pinpointing sadness and anger.