Friday, February 10, 2012

Dating & Romance Nonverbal Communication Secret No. 1010: What Makes the Twinkle in Her Eye?

What makes the Twinkle in Her Eye? This is not a straightforward answer - as there are several components behind the "twinkling".

The first requirement for a twinkle in the eye - is that the smile must be sincere. A smile with a "high sincerity quotient" must have the eyelids partially closed. Without partial eye closure, there is no sincerity. This is an absolute. However, not all partial eye closure equates with sincerity -  think of subtle to moderate anger - a' la Clint Eastwood. In order for a sincere smile and thus true Joy-Happiness to be occurring, there must be the dynamic of a very subtle lowering of the eyebrow (very difficult to see) and a highly characteristic concave-up furrow in the lower eyelid (very easy to see - e.g., here on Rashida Jones). See also: Secret No. 353: Brad Pitt's Eyes - Sincere and Insincere Smiles.

The primary reason why the eyes "twinkle" is that when there is a momentary partial closure of the lids - this squeezes the tear film (the very thin layer of a highly specialized fluid on the surface of our eyes) into a smaller space - thus this swallow layer of fluid gets "deeper" for a few seconds. This extra "depth" reflects light more effectively - so the eyes appear to twinkle. If you look carefully at the lovely Ms. Jones, you can see two light reflection in each eye - one near (over) the center of each pupil - and a second one below just a fraction above each lower lid (where the tear film is a fraction of a millimeter deeper) - ergo more "twinkle"!

As far as the mouth goes, with sincere smile - as the gorgeous "Parks and Recreation" Star exemplifies, only the upper teeth should be visualized. If the lower teeth are showing (with the exception of laughter) there is a component of a forced or posed smile - ergo insincerity. There are exceptions to this, as one can suppress the mouth component of a smile - which of course is termed (go figure...) a "suppressed smile". This is still a sincere smile, but may be easily confused with other emotions and nonverbal nuance.

Now back to the eyes. When the pupils are larger, the "background" for the light reflection contrasts greater with the "foreground" twinkle - and makes the twinkle more visible (a light color against a dark background is simply easier for your eye to see). What causes larger pupils? When a person is sexually or affectionately (e.g., without a sexual component - such as a parent to child or vice versa) attracted to another - pupil diameter will increase. More attraction equals more twinkle. Of course, a darker environment will also cause pupils to become larger. This is one instinctive reason why dimly lit restaurants are considered more romantic. Rashida does not have larger pupils in the example above.

The angle of the light source-to the subject also plays a role. To give the greatest twinkle, it must be positioned behind the viewer (e.g. You). The source of the light may certainly influence the twinkle as well. If it is too bright - as very often is the case - it will cause the pupils to contract - thus detracting from the "twinkle".  A candle's light source has the advantage of being dim (so as to engender larger pupils) and dynamic. This constantly changing flicker adds considerably o the twinkle-effect. And you wondered why candles were romantic?!

Love must not be excluded as a cause of a "twinkle" in the eye. Since a "twinkle" is subjective - like beauty - it ultimately depends on the perception of the beholder. So if you love another, or you believe they love you - this very much colors your perception.

In summary, the perceived and real components of the "twinkle" in the eyes are caused by:

    1.  Partial eyelid closure component of a sincere smile -
         causing a deeper tear film on the surface of the eye.
         This leads to more reflectivity as well as a second reflection in each eye.
    2.  The mouth component of a sincere smile
    3.  The type and angle of the light source
    4.  Larger pupils
    5.  Love and/or affection: are they present?

Just in time for Valentines Day ....