Don’t Fire Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!

March 8, 2011 at 11:57 am (By Amba)

Ever wonder why you can see “the whites” of human eyes at all? File this under “Department of Who Knew”:

Human eyes are somewhat unique in the animal kingdom in that the sclera is very plainly visible at all times (except when the eye is closed). This is not just due to the white color of the human sclera, which many other species share, but also to the fact that the human iris is relatively small and comprises a significantly smaller portion of the exposed eye surface compared to other animals. It is theorized that this adaptation evolved because of our social nature as the eye became a useful communication tool in addition to a sensory organ. It’s believed that the conspicuous sclera of the human eye makes it easier for one individual to infer where another individual is looking, increasing the efficacy of this particular form of nonverbal communication. Animal researchers have also found that, in the course of their domestication, dogs have also developed the ability to pick up visual cues from the eyes of humans, making them one of only two species known to seek visual cues from another individual’s eyes. Interestingly enough, dogs do not seem to use this form of communication with one another and only look for visual information from the eyes of humans.


  1. Gianna Valerio said,

    Hi Annie,
    Not sure if you remember me, I’m Anthony Valerio’s daughter. Want to tell you I’m sorry about Jacques passing. I always loved to see Jacques, throughout the years, he was so sweet to me. My father really loved him, and spoke about Jacques often, and the influence he had on him. I have wonderful memories as a kid, of my parents cooking spaghetti and clam dinners for him and you. i have an early memory of Jacques bringing us a kitten, which turned out to be the first cat I really loved. Something about he saved the kitten from a maniac who was trying to put him in an oven. I attribute my love of cats to Jacques, and when my father told me he passed on with a cat on his bed I was not surprised.
    Not sure where you are living now, but if you end up back in nyc and need anything at all, please let me know. I live on Christopher St., in the village.
    Love, Gianna

  2. amba12 said,

    Good lord, Gianna, of course I remember you. I will indeed be living back on West 4th St. and 6th Ave. in a couple of months, and I would love to see you. We’re neighbors.

    Your love of cats is a great memorial to J — just the kind he would have preferred. Thank you for telling me. See you soon.

  3. Melinda said,

    Hi, Gianna. I live on Christopher Street too, and I’m looking forward to the Return of Annie.

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