Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 19 21:29:57 EDT 2004

Minnow asked

<and who was it who pointed out that if there 
wasn't a dry eye in the house
that was just as well, because a dry eye would be

in serious trouble?>

I'm pretty certain this was E Nesbit. I don't
know what book but it would have been near the
end on a left hand page facing an illustration.
(does anyone else rememeber the postion on the
page that they read soemthing, it can be very
handy). The context istr involved a ship, a
dockside, a King and a dragon. 

Minnow continued
<I still don't reckon this is the actual eyes; 
it's the facial muscles, and that's different.>

When we say "eyes" what do we generally mean? The
orbs themselves? The lids? Are the eyebrows
included? All of the above at different times
probably, so "the eyes" can include the muscles
around them I think. Writers who try to describe
accurately what faces do tend to observe how
raising and lowering of the lids and the tilt of
the head etc affect the  appearence of the eyes,
giving rise to the kind of things other writers
describe as sparkling say, or shadowed. I've yet
to see an adequate account of dancing eyes
however. One of the most powerful signals of the
eye area is the eyebrow flash, the quick raise of
the eyebrow which makes the eyes momentarily
bigger. Its a friendly, inviting signal in humans
and other primates.  

Phillip wrote :

> > ISTR reading somewhere, I think a work of 
fiction, in which a
> > character flicked his eyes upwards when 
telling the truth and
> > downwards when lying.  Or something.

> IIRC, people look up to the left when doing one

and up to the right
> when doing the other.  It has to do with which 
part of the brain is
> being accessed.>

Paul replied

<It was explained, in a book on body language I 
read, as one being
while-remembering-stuff and the other being 
It also said that which direction is which 
depends on one's left-right

The way I learned about this was in a class where
the tutor told us to pair up and watch each
others pupils while we first talked about how we
got to college that day and second imagined what
we found on our "ideal beach". The results were
impressive. However as a means to detect lying it
is limited.  I suspect something a person made up
earlier would give the same signal as
rememembered stuff, unless further questioning
over minor details forced them to make up some
new lies. Moreover while it shows that something
is being made up it doesn't neccessarily reveal
the "truth". Real life miscarriages of justice
often show that vulnerable detainees invent all
kinds of things to get out of trouble or even to
please their interrogators.

These movements of the eyes are supposed to be
involuntary signifiers of the operation of the
brain. Another one I have seen is about how
people spell. Apparently one method involves
visualising the word to be spelled as it would
appear on a page and "reading" the letters off,
the other is to sound the word out in the mind
and extrapolate the letters. The former is
supposed to be more effective. the eyes do
different things depending on which method is
used but I can't rememember what! 

Alison wrote
I hate to break it to you, but these sorts of 
heuristics have been
shown to be completely unreliable when actually 
analysed.  People
_sometimes_ do these things certainly, but 
treating them as either
always occuring or always meaning the same thing 
is a mistake.> 

I think the problem is often in the
interpretation, there are things that give clues
to how people are using their brains and to their
emotional states but to deduce from this their
motivations, let alone factual information is
very uncertain. However for writers of fiction
who do "know" these things body language is a
useful tool.

Dorian said 

<In my RL experience, eyes only seem to sparkle 
when the owner is about to
start crying.  The tears there but not quite shed

yet do sparkle when the light catches them.>

And, of course they may be crying from sorrow,
joy, laughter or just because it's windy!

<(But I have, once seen genuinely "cold" eyes.)>

The actor currently playing Andy in Eastenders
used to play a psychopathic stalker of a
policeman in The Bill. The part required him to
be a warm, sexy, friendly guy most of the time
reverting to a cold, scary manipulator with his
victim. He used to do this thing with his eyes. I
never worked out how but they would go from soft
velvety brown to cold hard little pebbles. I
found it genuinely chilling. 

<As a writer myself, I've come to the 
conclusion that when a writer
has someone read mood/thoughts solely from the 
other person's eyes, it's a
kind of shorthand for "this is what their whole 
language is saying".>

Yes! But one must be very careful not to call up
absurd images, such as the ones Dave Langford
likes to make fun of where eyes slide over faces,
drill into solid objects and generally do
inappropiate and anatomically impossible things. 

>From various Thog's Masterclasses


Physiognomy Dept. `He does a little shifting of
the eyes under this shit-eating grin ...' (Steve
Martini, Undue Influence, 1994) [PB] • 

`His eyes could have cut through rock mountains.'
-- Sam Merwin Jr, The Time Shifters

Dept of Eyeballs in the Sky. 'Marley's great,
popping black eyes bounced around the room,
looking for any sign of retreat from any of the
guests.' (James L. Swanson, The Stuff That Dreams
Are Made Of, 2001)

Eyeballs in the Sky (Retro Division). `... she
threw her eyes upon the walls, and saw their
shattered condition.' (Ann Radcliffe, The
Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794) 

>From this article 


Often fictional characters' eyes do unexpected
things: `They all felt Michael's adrenaline kick
in and watched his eyes bounce off his legal pad
...' (Rock Brynner, The Doomsday Report, 1998) 

Metaphors often fall awkwardly over one another:
`Only Lily could tell there was more to it,
because whatever was haunting the back of his
eyes made a trail of uneasy paw prints up her own
spine.' (Charles de Lint, Someplace to be Flying,


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