The Science Behind Why We Find Certain Eye Colors So Attractive (2024)


mbg Contributing Writer

By Georgina Berbari

mbg Contributing Writer

Georgina Berbari is a multidisciplinary artist, Yoga Alliance RYT-200 yoga and meditation instructor, and a Master's graduate of the creative writing program at Columbia University. Her work has been featured at the Hecksher Museum of Art on Long Island, Women's Health, SHAPE, Bustle, and elsewhere.

September 28, 2019

Aside from being vastly emotionally communicative and soul-baring, simply taking a moment to examine someone's unique eye color can be so compelling, as no two hues are exactly the same. Perhaps you're someone who's especially attracted to lighter eye colors like blue or green, or you find yourself on the other side of the spectrum being entranced by darker chocolate or amber colorings.

Have you ever wondered why certain eye colors are so beautifully alluring? We decided to ask a psychologist and dig into some research to find out.

What's rare is attractive.

1-800-Contacts recently conducted a survey of 1,000 people in order to figure out people's perceptions of eye color and what these different color preferences can reveal about us. One of the study's main findings was that gray eyes are both the rarest and the statistically most attractive eye color, with hazel and green following closely behind. Conversely, brown eyes are the most common color yet the least attractive to the survey's respondents.

According to World Atlas, approximately 79% of the world's population has brown eyes, making it the most common eye color in the world. After brown comes the blue-eyed crowd, with 8% to 10% of the world having blue eyes, 5% having amber or hazel eyes, and 2% of the world having green eyes. Statistically speaking, the rarest eye colors are gray and red/violet, and this novelty could be the reason gray eyes ranked as the most popular color among survey participants.

"It makes sense that the rarer colors tend to be more captivating," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., explains in an interview with mbg. "Rooted in primitive survival mechanisms, the human mind—and the human eye—tends to notice that which is different and unique."

According to Manly, this tendency came from the need to notice that which was "different" in the environment in order to ascertain if the novel item or experience was safe or unsafe. Throughout evolution, she says, we've retained this interest in that which is novel. And though in some cases that which is novel is considered a detriment in others—such as a different eye color—it can also be considered interesting or attractive.

What your eye color says about your personality.

Does eye color tell us anything real about a person, though? Well, partially.

Having more melanin, the pigment that creates the darkened hue of brown eyes, has been associated with things like being better at sports1 and being worse at handling alcohol. Some research2 shows that people with lighter eye colors, on the other hand, tend to be less agreeable and more competitive.

There's also a lot to be said about what we associate with specific eye colors. A peer-reviewed study3 published in the journal PLOS ONE found we subconsciously assume people with brown eyes are more trustworthy. That said, the researchers found this wasn't necessarily due to the eye color itself but rather the facial structure accompanying brown-eyed people. These researchers posit that the rounder and softer features of brown-eyed individuals make their faces appear more babylike and, thus, more innocent or trustworthy. Tangentially, the researchers suggest that the sometimes longer and more angular features of people with blue eyes strip them of this quality.As a counterpoint, though, a separate study found brown eyes to be associated with dominance.

The 1-800-Contacts survey did align with a lot of that research, though: When asked about what personality traits they associated with each eye color, blue eyes were considered "sexy" and associated with a love for "trying new things" while brown eyes were considered "trustworthy" and "kind."

Cultural ideals are also powerful.

Despite gray eyes being rated as the most attractive, 47.6% of the survey respondents revealed they would still choose to have blue eyes if given a choice. Manly explains that this might be because cultural influences also have an effect on that which we desire (whether that be eye color, hair color, or body shape).

"Our culture often idolizes a 'blond-haired, blue-eyed' person; this has been emphasized in movies and the media for decades," she tells mbg. "As such, the 'fun' and 'sexy' aspects attributed to a blue-eyed person are certainly a result of the heavy media influences."

Thus, when it comes to eye color, Manly explains that it's important to factor in how humans are—from childhood forward—exposed to the likes of Cinderella, Snow White, Barbie, TV, and movie personalities who tend to play out the fantasy that blue-eyed people are "fun" and "adventurous" whereas a person with steely-gray eyes or brown eyes might be typecast as the serious, sensible—yet kind—individual.

"We are, as a society, very much influenced by the media," says Manly. "Yes, we certainly may have an innate personal preference, yet much of what we are attracted to is based upon a long history (from birth forward) of what is [socially] deemed attractive."

The role of "sexual imprinting."

So how much weight do people actually put on eye color when it comes to judging a potential partner's attractiveness? Some research cites an unexpected link between the eye color of one's partner and that person's parents. In one 2017 study, researchers found both gay men and straight women were twice as likely to have a romantic partner with an eye color close to that of their father's. Conversely, gay women and straight men were 2.5 times more likely to have a partner with similar eyes to their mother's. The researchers speculated that this might be because as children, we "imprint" on the parent whose gender we're attracted to. This is both an interesting and admittedly slightly creepy subconscious predilection to keep in mind when analyzing why you're drawn to one person's eyes over another.

All these factors—rarity, cultural ideals, and sexual imprinting—probably play individual roles in determining which eye color a person is most drawn to. For most people, eye color will in no way be a deal-breaker in choosing one lover over another, but the next time you lose your train of thought because you're captivated by your partner's oceanic blue eyes, you can blame Cinderella—or maybe your dad.

The Science Behind Why We Find Certain Eye Colors So Attractive (2024)


The Science Behind Why We Find Certain Eye Colors So Attractive? ›

That said, the researchers found this wasn't necessarily due to the eye color itself but rather the facial structure accompanying brown-eyed people. These researchers posit that the rounder and softer features of brown-eyed individuals make their faces appear more babylike and, thus, more innocent or trustworthy.

What is scientifically the most attractive eye color? ›

Instead, gray eyes topped the chart with an average rating of 7.4, followed by blue and green eyes each scoring an average of 7.3. When broken down by gender, men ranked gray, blue, and green eyes as the most attractive, while women said they were most attracted to green, hazel, and gray eyes.

Does eye color determine attractiveness? ›

Eye colour however, does not seem to make any difference in the perceived attractiveness as it depends more on the individual preference of the beholder [10] . Overall, attractiveness is still a difficult concept to explain as it is influenced by many factors such as genes and environment. ...

What is the most attractive color to the human eye? ›

And when it comes to the color which catches our attention the most, you might be surprised to find that it's not red, blue, or even green. In fact, it's yellow. It attracts the eye easily and is often associated with happiness, positivity, and optimism.

What is the physics behind eye color? ›

This means that blue eyes do not actually have a set color. The blue comes from the amount of light available when we look at them. Brown eyes contain a high concentration of melanin in the stroma. The melanin absorbs most of the light entering the eye regardless of the collagen deposits, giving the eye a dark color.

What is the healthiest eye color? ›

Of all eye colors, brown seems to be the only one that could be called “advantageous” from a survival perspective. While more research is needed, darker irises are linked to a number of health benefits, including these: Reduced risk of macular degeneration. Lower melanoma risk.

What is the rarest eye color? ›

Gray: The Rarest Eye Color
Eye ColorU.S. PopulationWorld Population
Gray and otherLess than 1%Less than 1%
Blue27%8% to 10%
1 more row
Jan 1, 2024

Do purple eyes exist? ›

Although the deep blue eyes of some people such as Elizabeth Taylor can appear purple or violet at certain times, "true" violet-colored eyes occur only due to albinism. Eyes that appear red or violet under certain conditions due to albinism are less than 1 percent of the world's population.

Which eye color is prettier? ›

The results of another large eye color survey mirrored those from the experiment detailed above. The responses in this case indicated that light-colored eyes — green, gray, blue, and hazel — are considered the prettiest eye colors overall.

What is the prettiest eye shape? ›

Eye Shape #1 - Almond Eyes

Almond eyes are considered the most ideal eye shape because you can pretty much pull off any eyeshadow look. And believe me, this is a huge plus! Almond eyes have an oval shape with a slightly upturned outer corner.

What is the most wanted eye color? ›

One thing these survey results have in common is that light-colored eyes — green, gray, blue, and hazel — are named as the most attractive eye colors in the world.

What's the prettiest hair color? ›

Most Attractive Hair Colour According to Men

According to the survey, the majority of men (42%) found blonde hair to be the most attractive. This was followed by brunette (36%), red (16%), black (5%), and gray (1%).

What is the strongest eye color? ›

The allele for brown eyes is the most dominant allele and is always dominant over the other two alleles and the allele for green eyes is always dominant over the allele for blue eyes, which is always recessive.

What is the most mysterious eye color? ›

Gray: The Mystical Silver

Gray eyes are among the rarest eye colors, with less than 1% of the world's population possessing this mesmerizing hue. Gray eyes are believed to be a variant of blue eyes, with the gray color resulting from a higher concentration of collagen fibers in the iris.

What color is invisible to the human eye? ›

We see our world in a huge variety of colour. However, there are other “colours” that our eyes can't see, beyond red and violet, they are: infrared and ultraviolet.

Why are green eyes so rare? ›

Why Are Green Eyes So Rare? The chance of being born with green eyes hinges on a "complex interplay" of multiple genes and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), "making precise prediction challenging," Sexton noted.

What eye color is the most intelligent? ›

Here are the results:

People with grey eyes are perceived to be the smartest. Blue-eyed people are seen as being the most expressive. Those with green eyes are deemed adventurous. Brown eyes are perceived the most kind.

Which eyes look attractive? ›

If your eyes are wide horizontally, they are considered to be more attractive. This is true of men and women and all facial types. This width is known as the palpebral fissure length, and the longer it is, the more attractive your eyes become.


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