Dilated pupils can be a sign of love, but your pupils may also dilate when you’re angry, fearful, or are using excessive amounts of drugs or alcohol.
Yes — but let’s take a sec to discuss it before you start making assumptions about every set of dilated pupils that look your way.
Read on to find out why this happens, other signs to watch for, and more.
When you see something you like — be it a gift from a friend or handsome passerby — your sympathetic nervous system kicks in.
This is the same system that kicks in during times of alarm, triggering your fight-or-flight response.
When your body is under duress, your pupils dilate to improve your direct line of sight and peripheral vision.
This allows you to better see what’s exciting you or evaluate a potential threat.
Research has also found that people typically find those with larger pupils to be more attractive.
For example, researchers in one landmark study presented two pictures of the same woman to male participants and asked them to describe her.
They altered the size of her pupils to be slightly larger in one image and slightly smaller in the other — a detail none of the men reported noticing.
They described the woman with the larger pupils as “more feminine,” “soft,” and “pretty.” They described the woman with the smaller pupils as “cold,” “selfish,” and “hard.”
Several studies since then, using different methods, have yielded the same results.
So, is the same for women?
Sort of. Except that the findings seem to indicate that women who prefer nice guys are drawn to medium-sized pupils, while those drawn to larger pupils have a penchant for bad boys.
They found that a woman’s pupils grow largest when looking at someone they find sexually stimulating during the most fertile phase of her cycle.
Your brain gets a boost of these chemicals when you’re sexually or romantically attracted to someone.
This surge in hormones appears to make your pupils dilate.
Dilation may also be related to the biological need to reproduce.
It’s been suggested that a male’s attraction to larger pupils has to do with their biological quest to pass on their genes.
A woman with dilated pupils mirrors his attraction, indicating returned interest and perhaps sexual excitement.
If a woman’s pupils dilate most during her fertile period, this can set the stage for successful reproduction.
Here’s why you shouldn’t go assuming that anyone looking at you with dilated pupils must be in love: Love and lust can both make the pupils dilate. So can other emotions, like fear and anger.
Ovulation also affects pupil size.
But there are other things that are anything but lovey-dovey that can also cause dilated pupils, including:
- excessive drug and alcohol use
- alterations in light
- eye injury
- brain damage
You may not be able to rely solely on pupil size to know if someone’s into you, but there are several other nonverbal clues you can watch for.
Mutual eye contact
We all love a little eye candy and can’t help but stare when someone catches our interest.
But did you know that making prolonged eye contact with someone can make you more appealing?
One 2006 study found that a person’s attractiveness is boosted when they make eye contact and direct interest your way.
And, according to older research, the longer you engage in mutual eye contact, the stronger your feelings of love and affection become.
Eye contact may be just as important once you’re in a relationship.
The amount of eye contact you and your partner share may be indicative of just how in love you are.
Older research suggests that couples who are deeply in love make more eye contact than those who aren’t.
Leaning or tilting
The way a person sits or stands in your presence says a lot about their interest. Someone who’s interested or flirting with you will often lean or tilt your way.
Examples of this are leaning forward and bringing their upper body toward you, or moving closer to the edge of their seat when talking to you.
On the flipside, a person who leans back or tilts their body away from you is probably just not that into you.
Without having to give it any real thought or effort, a person’s feet will generally point in the direction they want to go.
If you’re speaking to someone and their feet are pointing toward you, then they’re where they want to be.
If their feet are pointing away from you or even at someone else, take it as a sign they may rather be elsewhere.
Mirroring has long been thought to be a nonverbal sign of interest.
Mirroring is the mimicking — subconscious or otherwise — of another person’s actions and behaviors.
When two people are genuinely engaged in conversation, they tend to mirror each other without even realizing it.
It’s also believed that a person will mimic your actions when they want to build a rapport with you.
Aligning their actions encourages closeness and creates a bond.
So, if you happen to notice that the person you’re chatting up is holding their hand in the same position you are, they’re probably interested.
Subtle motions, such as grazing your arm or leg during an animated conversation, may be a sign of interest.
Also take note of how they interact with themselves when speaking to you.
Running their hand along their arm or through their hair while looking at or speaking to you may be another sign of attraction.
Flushing or blushing
Your face becomes flushed when you get a rush of adrenaline. This causes your heart to race and your blood vessels to dilate.
It can result from any type of emotion, whether that’s stress or embarrassment or anger.
But in terms of mating, it’s a good indicator that you’ve managed to get someone excited.
Blushing has long been thought of as a sign of
The same adrenaline rush that can cause you to blush at the mere sight of someone you’re attracted to can also cause your palms to sweat.
Although dilated pupils can be a sign of love, there are other clues you can look for to know if someone’s into you.
And if all else fails, you could always just ask how they feel.