The size of your pupils actually reflects the state of your body and mind. Pupil size can change because you are fearful, angry, in pain, in love, or under the influence of drugs. Not only does the pupil react to emotional stimuli, it is itself an emotional stimulus. The size of a person’s pupils can give another person a strong impression of sympathy or hostility.
The response of the pupil is an involuntary reflex. Like the knee-jerk reflex, the pupillary response is used to test the functions of people who might be ill or injured. You may have seen a doctor shine light into the eyes of a person with a suspected head injury—they are looking at the pupillary response.
The pupil of your eye is also the source of the red eyes you sometimes see in flash photographs. When the bright light of a camera flash shines directly through the pupil, it can reflect off the choroid, which supplies red blood to the retina (the light-sensitive lining at the back of your eye), and bounce right back out through the pupil. If this happens, the person in the photograph will appear to have glowing red eyes. To avoid this, photographers move the flash away from the camera lens. With this arrangement, the light from the flash goes through the pupil at an angle, illuminating a part of the retina not captured by the camera lens. Many cameras are equipped with red-eye reduction features, such as a pre-flash that causes pupil constriction before the actual flash that illuminates the photo.
This Science Snack is part of a collection that highlights Black artists, scientists, inventors, and thinkers whose work aids or expands our understanding of the phenomena explored in the Snack.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019), pictured above, was an ophthalmologist and laser scientist, and was the first woman chair of ophthalmology at a US university. She studied the causes of and cures for blindness, and invented a widely used method of using laser surgery to treat blindness caused by cataracts. Dr. Bath also co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. This Science Snack can help you investigate the structures in the eye that help you see, so you can understand the eye like Dr. Bath did.