Widening of eyes in response to fear increases the field of vision and helps onlookers to locate threats quickly, says a recent study. Human emotions are most often expressed through various facial expressions. A person in fear responds either by raising the eyebrows, widening the eyes or by slightly opening the mouth.
Previous researches have shown that the way brain processes fear impacts our other body functions like heart rate. Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted experiments to analyze the benefits of facial expressions in response to fear.
Advertisement"Emotional expressions look the way they do for a reason," says Daniel Lee, a psychology graduate student who conducted the study. He further adds that these expressions are useful for communicating the emotional states with others. Researchers observed the facial response of the participants to visual fear stimuli. It was found that participants who made wide-eye expressions had a greater field of view and were able to identify visual patterns, which were in their outer vision.
Scientists also noted that this wide-eye expression helped others to identify easily the direction in which the eyes of the person in fear were looking and immediately respond to the stimulus. "Our ability to process other people's eye gaze is already finely-tuned; the fact that this processing is further enhanced by expressive eye widening underscores the importance of our eyes as social signals", says Lee.
The findings of the study are published in the journal Psychological Science.