The eyes are said to be the windows of the soul, but they are also windows to ...
An important function of feelings is to alert us to what is important, drawing our attention to things in both our internal and our external environment. This includes people, things and even thoughts.
What our feelings do is help highlight these things as significant, and what our eyes do is to reveal (to those watching us) what we find significant and what that significance is.
But the function is not purely social, rather it is actually quite practical, because our eyes serve a crucial sensory role, they allow us to see;
Do I have your attention?
If something has my attention I look at it, and anything that makes me happy, sad, scared, angry, or even surprised has my attention, and focus.
Surprise and Fear
Consider this : In both surprise and fear eyes are wide open taking in as much information as possible (in fact peripheral or side vision expands by nearly 10%). This allows us to focus on the trigger (the source of the surprise or fear response) but at the same time to look beyond and find either additional oncoming surprised or escape routes.
In anger the eyes are focused on a single point, with a narrow focus. 'Staring down the source of the anger' in a way that is set to intimidate.
(Keep that in mind when talking to others because staring without looking away can be experienced as intimidating, although there are far more 'eye cues' involved in the response to and expression of feeling. )
Taking it in, wanting more, the eyes of happiness are open to enjoying the source of one's pleasure or happiness.
Interestingly this is best understood by considering the feeling of contentment (a form of happiness), where eyes closed or lacking focus the person is satisfied and needs no more!
In contrast the eyes of awe are open, enjoying the pleasure and wanting more.
The feeling of fear is in response to the perception of danger and leads to a confrontation with or escape from the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response).
Inborn the feeling triggers an automatic response which includes elevated heart rate and blood pressure along with the 'face of fear'. This includes widened eyes and eyebrows slanted upward, which act to increase the capacity of this sense (of sight) so we can assess danger and escape routes. It also shows more of the white of the eye revealing to others direction or the source of the fear.
Dropping, half closed the eyes of sadness tends to expresses the feeling of sadness as if portraying the weight of the 'grief' the person is feeling. But it is in fact the lack of focus on anything external (the look within one's eyes) that telegraphs the sadness a person is feeling.
Distracted from anything outside, internal pain and suffering is what has the attention of the person who is sad, and focus of their eyes.
Focus is inward ... something we will consider more closely using NLP
Disgust is an emotional response of revulsion to something considered offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant. So the eyes reflect a desire to block out that which is offensive, but at the same time the need to see. Hence lightly narrowed brows, and constricted eyes with their narrow focus.
So whether protecting oneself from being exposed through our eyes (nose and mouth), to the offensive fumes or sights associated with rotten often putrid objects, you would have to keep your eyes slightly open as you would not want to step in or touch it.
in Japan, people tend to look to the eyes for emotional cues, whereas Americans tend to look to the mouth, ( Masaki Yuki, a behavioral scientist at Hokkaido University in Japan).
The eyes are more difficult to control than the mouth, especially when trying to fake emotions.
Just take a look at a genuine smile (which travels all the way to the eyes) compared with a fake smile that stays on the lips. This is because we cannot voluntarily contract the orbicularis oculi muscle responsible for raising the cheeks and producing crow's feet around the eyes.
Paddington Bear calls the look of anger a "hard Stare" ... "his aunt taught it to him for people who had forgotten their manners."
interpret staring as intimidation and rivalry and
will often stare down their opponent and assess them for hesitancy in attacking
Japanese people tend to shy away from overt displays of emotion, and rarely smile or frown with their mouth
NLP eyes accessing cues
William James (Principles of Psychology, 1890) first suggested that internal representations and eye movements may be related. However it was only in the 1970’s when Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts and others revealed that eye movement both laterally and vertically seems to be associated with activating different parts of the brain