August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Eyes with higher contrast look younger
Author Affiliations
  • Richard Russell
    Psychology Department, Gettysburg College
  • Aurélie Porcheron
    CEntre de Recherches et d' Investigations Épidermiques et Sensorielles
  • Jennifer Sweda
    Psychology Department, Gettysburg College
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 30. doi:
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      Richard Russell, Aurélie Porcheron, Jennifer Sweda; Eyes with higher contrast look younger. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):30.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The luminance and color contrast between the eyes, mouth, eyebrows, and the skin surrounding those features (‘facial contrast’) decreases with age, and faces manipulated to have increased contrast appear younger, while faces manipulated to have reduced contrast appear older (Porcheron et al. 2011 VSS). Thus there is evidence that certain kinds of contrast in the face change with age and are related to the perception of a person’s age. Here we investigated contrast between the iris and sclera, which we term ‘ocular contrast’. In particular, we investigated the relationship between ocular contrast and age, and between ocular contrast and perceived age. Using a set of carefully controlled full face color photographs of 289 women aged from 20 to 69, we measured the contrast between the iris and sclera of both eyes in the CIELab L* (light-dark), a* (red-green), and b* (yellow-blue) axes. There were significant contrast changes with age in all three channels, due primarily to the appearance of the sclera becoming darker, redder, and yellower. In a separate study, subjects estimated the age of 150 of these faces. Ocular contrast in each of the L*, a*, and b* channels was found to predict the difference between actual and perceived age of the face. Faces with higher ocular contrast in the luminance and b* channels were perceived as younger. Faces in which the sclera was less red than the iris were considered younger than those where the sclera was more red than the iris. Together these findings indicate that ocular contrast changes with age and is a cue that observers use to estimate the age of a person from their face.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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