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When Gauging Age, the Eyes Have It

Posted: February 3, 2009

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When gauging the age of people, the students looked at the eye region 46% of the time, followed by the nose (19%), forehead (13%) and the area between the eyebrows (11%). The numbers were similar when the students were trying to figure out how tired the people in the photos appeared. The study findings were published in the February issue of the journal Ophthalmology.

The eye region makes up just 21% of the face, according to the study authors. So why does it seem to reveal so much? "There is a lot going on around the eyes," Rubin said. For one thing, eyelids are the thinnest skin on the body, making swelling more prominent. Also, he said, the eye region undergoes many changes during aging and suffers from significant sun damage. "Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder," Rubin said. "It's also in the eye of the beholdee."

Timothy J. Slattery, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of California, San Diego, said the study findings reflect those of other research that has found that people fixate on the eyes when they look at photos of faces. But the study does not prove that the eye region is the most important when it comes to judgments about age and fatigue, said Slattery, who tracks how the eye moves.

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