When you think of opossums, what do you think of?
Simon Baron-Cohen of the University of Cambridge thinks he can measure who’s most likely to swing magnificent first dates, productive group projects, and a lifetime of success at the poker table. He’s developed a test predicting how we can read the minds of others–and it doesn’t involve auras or Bill Murray holding up a series of cards.
What’s Baron-Cohen looking at when he decides who’s a mind reader and who’s not? What all emotionally intelligent people are looking at: The eyes.
Baron-Cohen’s test, called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes,” calculates how well subjects discern a person’s emotions when shown no other part of the face but the eyes. Try it here.
An average score is in the mid-20’s. Here’s how to raise your total– both on the test and at the poker table.
1) “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” measures complex adult emotion. Choices include not simplistic choices like “happy, sad, angry, scared,” but “interested, tentative, decisive, playful.” Understanding that facial expressions, particularly those communicated through the eyes, can speak of a range of emotions is the first step in mindreading.
2) Narrowed eyes are a good indicator that a person is suspicious or unsure. When you see that, your date isn’t buying your tales of 21,000 followers on your Twitter account.
3) What does it mean when someone gazes to the side? Looking to the left indicates recollection or remembering; staring to the right is more associated with imagination and guessing. Eye movement to the right is also linked with connecting with one’s feelings, however, so don’t automatically narrow your own eyes if you see a lot of glances on the right.
4) Don’t forget to look just above the eyes themselves. Eyebrows are a strong indicator of mood– and attraction. A quick flash upwards of the eyebrows is a gooooooooooood sign. (If someone’s insisted upon shaving them off– best wishes and re-evaluate your internet dating service.)
5) Eyes focused downward can show tentativeness or lack of assertion. Someone studying the carpet fibers isn’t too sure of what he or she is saying.
6) One of the reasons that photos of fake smiles are disturbing is that the subject’s eyes rarely match the rest of the facial expression. Our brains notice that their mouths are sending one message while the eyes are contradicting it. If you’re not sure if an otherwise happy expression is genuine, check if the muscles around the eyes are confirming the memo.
7) Most associate wide eyes with fear, but widened eyes can also indicate interest or attraction. In fearful eyes, the upper eyelid is raised but the lower is not, and eye whites are more visible in the upper half. Eyebrows usually form a Bert-like line.
8) The eyes of those who are flirting offer quick glances from the side, or, in women, from beneath the lashes.
9) While we’re on the subject of attraction: Those eyebrow flashes can be tough to miss, so look at the pupil. It becomes larger when discussing a subject of personal interest, or while speaking to a crush. Contracted pupils indicate boredom… either in you or in the Battle of Hastings. Change the subject. Or whoever arranges your blind dates.