WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 6, 2009 -- The eyes have it when it comes to showing age, a new study
Researchers say younger people seem to make judgments about the age and
alertness of older folks by looking into and around their eyes. The study is
published in the February issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the
American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Forty-seven young adults took part in the study, each looking at the faces
of older people on a computer monitor equipped with a camera that looked back
at them with an eye-tracking device. It analyzed the direction and duration of
the participants' gazes.
Huy Tu Nguyen, MD, from the Harvard department of ophthalmology and
colleagues found that in rating age, the younger folks most often looked at the
eye region, followed by the forehead and the nose region.
The eye region also was the most frequently selected in rating fatigue, followed by the
forehead, and the nose region.
In the eye region, study participants looked at the brows and lower lids the
most when asked to rate both fatigue and age.
The researchers say the young people looked at static, two-dimensional
images of the older folks, rather than video or live images, and thus the study
could not determine how much attention the mouths of the older people might
have attracted as age and fatigue markers.
The researchers also say findings may be different with older people as
The participants of this study were age 21 on average. In the first part of
the study, the participants were presented with a digital image of an older
adult's face on a monitor for five seconds at a time before having to guess the
age of the person in the picture. The same 48 facial images were shown again
for five seconds each time but in a different order for the fatigue
The researchers conclude that the results "demonstrate that the eye
region is most important in making fatigue and age judgments [raising] the
possibility that aesthetic surgery to the eye region may be an efficient,
effective intervention to enhance an individual's attractiveness by possibly
reducing how old or tired one appears."
SOURCES:News release, American Academy of Ophthalmology.Nguyen, H. Ophthalmology, February 2009; vol 116.
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