Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, but a new study reveals that the reverse is also true; unattractiveness is in the eye of the beheld. Research published in Ethology finds that people with bloodshot eyes are considered sadder, unhealthier and less attractive than people whose eye whites are untinted, a cue which is uniquely human.
“Red, ‘bloodshot’ eyes are prominent in medical diagnoses and in folk culture”, said lead author Dr. Robert R. Provine from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We wanted to know if they influence the everyday behaviour and attitudes of those who view them, and if they trigger perceptions of attractiveness.”
Bloodshot eyes occur when the small blood vessels of the usually transparent conjunctiva membrane on the surface of the eye become enlarged and congested with blood, giving a red tint to the underlying sclera, the “white” of the eyes. Redness of the sclera is believed to be a general but important sign of a person’s emotional and biological state.