The eyes and brow together are easily the most magnetic and compelling part of the face. There seems to be something almost magically responsive and alive in the organ of vision. We instinctively feel that the eyes provide our most direct link to the person within. The brows too seem to have a life of their own.
We can be responsive to the subtlest of shifts in the eyes and brow, measurable in mere fractions of an inch. For example, if you're talking to someone and his or her eyes shift past you, you will notice it immediately. What is it you've noticed? When your friend's eyes switched away from looking directly at you; the irises moved about 6mm (W) further away from each other. That's the difference between the close focus and distant focus positions of the eye. The closer the object we are looking at, the closer the irises come to each other; the further away the object, the more separated they are. The fact that we recognize such tiny changes instantly and effortlessly suggests how great a capacity we have for subconsciously retaining important facts about the eye.
The Relaxed Position of the Eyelids_
The irises are the key to judging the general state of the eye. The amount of iris exposed by the upper and lower lids is crucial to most facial expressions. Although eyes vary, they do so in a range narrow enough to make possible certain generalizations about lid position.
The Range of the Upper Lid
Let's look at the relationship between the upper lid and the iris first.
lower limit—The neutral lower limit of the upper lid is the top of the pupil
When we are alert, the upper lid always covers part of the iris, but it stops just short of the upper edge of the pupil. If it falls any lower and begins to actually block the pupil—even slightly—the whole face immediately takes on a different cast. It begins to look sleepy, sad, dopey, or drunk. Anything but alert.
The top of the pupil marks the low point of the range of the neutral upper lid. Depending on the individual, their particular neutral position may be anywhere from there to the top of the iris. Each face has its own personal spot. The upper eyelid will always return to this same resting position.
upper limit—The neutral upper limit of the upper lid is the top of the iris.
When the lid moves above the relaxed upper limit, white begins to show and the eye begins to look excited. A few people always show some white above the iris. Theoretically, we should find it difficult to tell if such people are excited or not; but in fact we know instantly that their lid simply sits higher than usual. We are probably carefully noting telltale details: the fullness of the upper lid (which would be retracted if the eye was open extra wide) or the lack of extra arching in the line of the lid edge.
You can perform a simple exercise to understand a bit more about why the upper lid sits the way it does. Look in a mirror and lower your lid until it begins to cover the pupil. Immediately, you become aware of the lid in your vision. You will not allow this if you are awake enough to care. But to lift your lid above the iris takes a special effort; this can't be sustained either.
The Range of the Lower Lid
The lower lid's range of resting positions is much narrower.
upper limit—The neutral upper limit of the lid is just above the bottom of the iris.
The lower lid usually just grazes the iris, covering a bit of its lower edge. In expressions that involve squinting, like laughing and crying, the lower lid can rise much higher, covering part of the pupil from below.
lower limit—The neutral lower limit of the lid is just below the iris. Sometimes we can see white below the iris. Wherever it is, this lower border of the lid is fixed; the lower lid almost never moves below its neutral position. It's an island of stability in the eye's complex, movable landscape.
The Relaxed Position of the Eyebrows_
Upper Limit—The eyebrows also vary within a predictable range. From the viewpoint of expression, the inner third of the eyebrow (near the nose) is where all the action is. It's the most movable portion, the part over which we have the most subtle muscular control. In a neutral face, it is always either level with, or slightly below, the outer two-thirds of the eyebrow. As soon as it curls upward even slightly, the eye takes on a look of distress. Since the brow never naturally grows this way, we can recognize distress from the brow position alone, even without the usually accompanying wrinkles and bulges.
lower limit—The lower limit of the eyebrow is established by a particular facial landmark: the fold that marks the top of the upper lid. No matter how low the eyebrow grows, it seems to never go below an imaginary line drawn level with this fold. When the brow crosses below this line, pulled by the corruga-tor muscle, the face takes on an expression. It may look thoughtful, or angry, or perplexed, depending on what the rest of the face is doing.
RESTING POSITION OF EYELIDS
The resting position of the eyelids is the position the lids take when the eye (and the person) is relaxed. In the average eye (A), the lid line crosses the iris with room to spare above the pupil. On some people, the eyelid sits much lower (B). This is as low as the lid can go before it begins to interfere with vision. The upper limit is less well defined; though the eye at (C) has an unusually high upper lid, it is also possible to find people with lids even higher, where white always shows above the iris. A great deal of white showing above indicates either an unhealthy condition or an expression.
The lower lid normally hides a bit of the iris (D), but it is not uncommon for it to allow white to show (E). Unlike white showing above the iris, white showing below has no emotional connotations whatsoever; there are no expressions where the lower lid moves farther down in response. In fact, there are no muscles to move the lower lid down.
THE EYEBROW AT REST
The average male eyebrow (left) is heavier and closer to the eye; women's tend to be thinner and higher (right). In both cases the eyebrow follows the bulge of the eyebrow ridge; for men, the brow tends to sit on the downslope, while on women it's on the upslope. The eyebrow always shows at least a bit of arch, with typically more arch on a woman's than a man's. The break in the arch is about two-thirds of the way from inner end to outer (A), right at the point where the forehead (and the brow) turns from front plane to side.
There is a lower limit beyond which even the lowest male or female brow will not normally drop. It is the top edge of the upper lid (B). Here both brows, male (left) and female (right), fall just above that limit. In expressions that involve frowning, like concentration or anger, the inner brow end (C) will move below the line, pulled downward by the cor-rugator muscle.
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