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Do our pupils affect how attractive we are?

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Do our pupils affect how attractive we are?


In order to investigate whether our pupils affect how attractive we are, an experimental technique was used, variables were manipulated and data recorded.

The aim of this study was to investigate how the size of our pupils affect how attractive we are perceived to be.

The method involved fifty participants who looked at two pictures and rated their attractiveness.

It was hypothesised the pictures of people with dilated pupils will be rated more attractive.

A chi-square test of association at a significance level of p=0.05 revealed that the experimental hypothesis was accepted and the null hypothesis rejected.

The data collected illustrated that having larger pupils increases the attractiveness and that constricted pupils made us less attractive.

The implications of this study, its limitations and suggestions of follow up studies will be further discussed.


Arousal affects the body in many ways. It relaxes the bronchi, strengthens the heartbeat, inhibits activity in the digestive system, contracts the blood vessels and dilated pupils. These are all part of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which comes into play when we are aroused of alerted. The changes due to the sympathetic branch help us to prepare for ‘fight or flight’ according to ‘Cannon.’ When we see someone who is attractive, our pupils dilate. If they find us attractive their pupils will also dilate.

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In the middle ages, Italian women used to use parts of the atropine plant (also known as deadly nightshade) as eye drops to dilate their pupils so that they could conform with the latest fashion trends and look more attractive. It was given the name ‘belladonna’ which when translated from Italian to English means beautiful woman.


Based on the research above, the aim of my experiment is to investigate if our perceived attractiveness differs depending on weather our pupils are dilated or not.


The experimental hypothesis is that participants will rate the pictures of people with dilated pupils as more attractive. The null hypothesis is that there will be no significant difference between which of the pictures is perceived to be more attractive.



An experimental procedure, in particular a field experiment was used in which was used in which all other variables apart from the independent and the dependant were fixed. The independent variable was weather the person in the picture had dilated or constricted pupils. The results that were recorded were the dependent variable. The participants were tested individually and away from all the other students to avoid the risk of conformity and also so that others do not over hear the debriefing of the experiment or the answers that the participants use. To test for significance, a chi-square test of association was used with a significance level of p=0.05.

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This study was based on the initial study by Hess therefore my results can be compared with his. The basic results were the same as his experiment although not to the same extent. More of his participants choose the picture with dilated pupils rather than constricted pupils. This could be for a number of reasons. One of them is that I chose opportunity sampling to choose the participants that took part. All of these participants were students so my findings cannot be generalised to the whole population.

Another explanation is that I used a male picture as well as a female picture whereas Hess only used a female picture. The significance of this is that the male picture with constricted pupils could be seen as more attractive as the picture with dilated pupils may intimidate both males and females. Females may be sub consciously unaware that they prefer the male with constricted pupils as he seem the ‘safer’ option. It would be quite scary if a complete male stranger was aroused by them. Males may be the same as this. When looking at the results in the table you can see that less of the participants perceived the male with dilated pupils as more attractive.

Overall, my experiment found that people with dilated pupils are perceived as more attractive.

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Height and Weight of Pupils and other Mayfield High School investigations section.

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