It is the sweetest scene in your favorite love story – she walks into the bar and their eyes meet. For a few seconds, everything stops. She is just standing there starring at him across the room. All ambient noise suddenly goes quiet and a big smile slowly spreads across her face. Her cheeks are red and the extreme close up of her face reveals bright, widely open eyes with fully dilated pupils
That is a typical scene straight from a Hollywood movie. Hollywood has made us believe that your pupils automatically dilate or widen when you see someone you like. But does it actually happen in real life? Is it another one of the many myths Hollywood has perpetuated over the years? The answer is that it is actually real!
Why Do Your Pupils Dilate When You Like Someone?
We did some research to find out and here’s the result – brace yourself for a bit of science.
Pupil dilation is an involuntary process in which it widens, usually to allow more light into the eye. The opposite is constriction, which is also an involuntary action in humans. It happens when you are exposed to a lot of light and the eye needs to minimize the amount of light coming in to prevent damage to itself.
Think about the last time you had your eyes examined. The eye doctor makes your pupil dilate so he can examine the blood vessels at the back of the eye and, thus, draw some conclusions about the overall health of your eye.
Apart from light regulation, pupil dilation also happens as a physiological response to surprise
and, yes, even attraction!
Iris muscles which cause the widening and contracting of the pupil are controlled by the automatic nervous system. This means dilation is just like the butterflies in your tummy when you are nervous or the sweaty palms some people get in similar situations. Some studies have shown that even just looking at a picture of someone you like can make your pupils dilate.
So there really is some truth to those Hollywood love scenes. The ‘look of love’ is actually real and it has been scientifically proven!
Does It Matter Where You Are?
The short answer is yes. If you are watching your friend’s eyes closely when you are in the presence of a guy she likes, the amount of light in your environment could give you confusing results.
In bright lights:
As mentioned, the pupil either dilates or contracts to regulate the amount of light which finds its way into your eye. The eye needs some light to enable you to see clearly, but too much of it can damage your eye. So, if you are outdoors on a bright and sunny day, your pupils automatically constrict to make sure there isn’t too much light getting into your eye. Even if you are hanging out with your crush, your eye chooses self-protection over your feelings. Your pupils will remain constricted even in bright lights, despite being in the presence of your crush.
In dim lights:
Say you are out at a dimly lit restaurant. There is barely enough light so your pupils automatically dilate to let in as much light as possible so you can see clearly.
Next time you are watching your friend to find out if she likes one of the guys you are hanging out with, consider your environment. Look out for other signs of attraction. If you notice a combination of a few of them, then maybe you can draw a conclusion.
Other Physical Signs of Attraction
Besides your eyes, your body displays several other signs when you are attracted to someone. Some of these are actually unpleasant feelings while others are not unpleasant, but can be embarrassing especially if you are trying to hide your feelings for someone. Here are a few other physical signs you have probably experienced.
Raised voice pitch
We all have a specific pitch in which we ordinarily speak in. When you are around someone you like, you may notice that the pitch of your voice gets higher when you are talking to them. It is more noticeable in women. Research has shown that a woman’s voice gets higher pitched when she is talking to a man whom she is physically attracted to because her mind somehow believes it makes her appear more feminine.
However, this is not something that happens exclusively in women but can happen in men too. The difference might be subtler but if you take a moment to listen, you may be able to note the change in pitch when a man picks up a call from a woman he likes.
Flushed cheeks, pounding heart, and sweaty palms
You are going out on a first date with someone you really like. You might notice that your palms get sweaty just before you walk into the restaurant. For some people, their heart starts racing, almost like how you feel before a big exam or presentation. Fortunately, sweaty palms and a racing heart are not visibly noticeable, unlike a flushed face, which simply can’t be hidden. It can be embarrassing to know that your face is red and there is nothing you can do to hide it.
A little more science – flushed cheeks or a flushed face is caused by increased blood flow to the area. When this happens, blood vessels enlarge to compensate for the increase. If you are light-skinned, the color change is quite obvious. For darker-skinned people, a flushed face may not be as visible.
It is a bit disturbing that just liking someone could have such unpleasant effects on you. It is normal to feel a bit queasy before a date with someone you really like. Some people can’t eat before a big date. They call it lovesickness
It is caused by increased amounts of cortisol
, a stress hormone which causes the contraction of blood vessels in your stomach. You lose your appetite but it usually fades after a couple of hours. This is why many brides and grooms can’t eat at their wedding because they are still anxious about their big day.
Lack of or disturbed sleep
People lose sleep over lots of things and love is easily one of them! When you are high on love in an exciting new relationship, you may experience disrupted sleep or restlessness throughout the night. Research has shown that those feelings of excitement from new love make you feel more energized in the early morning and in the evenings. The evening excitement may cause you to be wide awake until the wee hour of the morning or have disturbed sleep.
Unfortunately, disturbed sleep at night means you are tired and groggy the following day. So next time your boss asks you why you can’t focus at work, perhaps ‘I’m in love’
could be a permissible answer. Well, maybe not!
A Last Advice
Now you know that widened pupils in the eyes of love birds as they stare into each other’s eyes actually does happen. Your eyes could give you away when you are talking to a crush. Other physical signs you may notice when you like someone are a racing heart, sweaty palms and even a queasy feeling… like you ate something that was about to go bad. The important thing is to recognize these signs and feelings as normal. Don’t let them stop you. Sweaty palms or light nausea shouldn’t stop you from going on that date!