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Does eye color determine anything?

Does eye color determine anything?

Eye color has long been a topic of fascination for people. The hue of one’s eyes is often one of the first things we notice upon meeting someone new. Throughout history, different cultures have ascribed various meanings and attributes to people based on eye color. But does eye color actually have any correlation to personality, health, or other traits? Let’s explore what modern science has to say.

The Genetics Behind Eye Color

To understand if eye color determines anything about us, we first need to understand what causes our eyes to be a certain color. Human eye color is the result of the amount and type of pigment in the iris of the eye. This pigment is called melanin. The two main types of melanin are:

  • Eumelanin: This pigment produces brown/black tones.
  • Pheomelanin: This pigment produces red/yellow tones.

The specific eye color someone has is determined by the amount and distribution of these two melanins in their iris. For example:

  • Brown eyes have a high concentration of melanin and eumelanin.
  • Green eyes have moderate amounts of melanin, with more pheomelanin than eumelanin.
  • Blue eyes have very low levels of melanin, with traces of pheomelanin.

In total, three different genes play a major role in determining someone’s eye color. These genes are:

  • HERC2: This gene helps regulate OCA2 and determines how much pigment is produced overall.
  • OCA2: This gene is primarily responsible for how much brown/black eumelanin is present.
  • SLC24A4: This gene is a key contributor to pheomelanin levels.

Different variants of these genes are inherited from a person’s parents and come together to produce the final eye color.

The Distribution of Eye Colors

Now that we understand the genetic basis for eye color, let’s look at how common different colors are worldwide. The most common eye colors across all human populations include:

Eye Color Global Population
Brown 55%
Blue 17%
Hazel 17%
Green 7%
Gray 2%
Other 2%

However, eye color frequencies can vary significantly between different ethnic groups and geographic regions based on evolutionary adaptive pressures. For example:

  • Almost all people native to Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas have brown eyes.
  • Lighter eye colors like blue and green are rare in these populations, occurring in less than 5% of people.
  • In contrast, over 75% of people in Baltic countries like Latvia have blue eyes.
  • The highest prevalence of green eyes is in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

The differences in distribution illustrate that genetics and ancestry play a major role in determining eye color across populations.

Potential Links Between Eye Color and Personality

Now that we understand the genetics behind eye color variations, let’s explore some of the traits people have ascribed to differences in eye color. One major area of speculation is around connections between eye color and personality.

In popular culture, people with blue eyes are sometimes seen as more innocent, sensitive or calm. Green eyes have been associated with mysterious, mischievous or romantic personalities. And brown-eyed individuals are often described as being warm, friendly and trustworthy.

Is there any truth to these stereotypes? A few small studies have tried to investigate potential correlations between eye color and personality:

  • A study of 528 individuals in Turkey found blue-eyed and hazel-eyed participants scored lower on extraversion than dark-eyed people.
  • Another Turkish study of 300 women found those with lighter eye colors were more likely to be emotionally stable and extroverted.
  • However, two larger studies in Poland and the Czech Republic found no significant personality differences based on eye color when controlling for other factors.

Overall, there is very limited scientific evidence linking eye color to definitive differences in personality traits or temperament. More robust research is needed to determine if any true patterns exist across populations. At this time, eye color can only be considered a weak and unreliable predictor for personality.

Eye Color and Health

Along with personality, some people believe eye color may be an indicator of health or disease risk. But what does the science say about potential connections between eye color and health?

Light sensitivity: Some research shows lighter eye colors like blue and green are more sensitive to sunlight and bright lights. This may increase risk of conditions like photokeratitis and snow blindness in environments with intense light exposure.

Macular degeneration: Multiple studies have found those with lighter eyes may face higher risk for age-related macular degeneration compared to brown-eyed individuals.

Alcohol dependence: There is evidence for slightly higher rates of alcohol dependence among people with lighter eye colors such as blue, green and hazel.

Cancer risk: A few studies have linked darker eye color with increased risk for certain cancers, including skin, ovarian and testicular cancer. However, more research is needed.

While some tentative links exist, overall there is limited evidence that eye color alone is a reliable determinant for major health conditions. Environment, lifestyle and other genetic factors play a much greater role in disease risk.

Other Traits Associated With Eye Color

Aside from health and personality, are there any other traits potentially associated with eye color? Here are a few that have been examined:

  • Intelligence: Multiple studies have found no significant links between eye color and IQ or general intelligence.
  • Athletic ability: A few small studies found lighter-eyed athletes performed better at activities requiring precision timing like baseball hitting, while dark-eyed athletes excelled at reaction-based sports like boxing or fencing. But overall evidence is very limited.
  • Attractiveness: Across cultures there are diverse preferences for eye color in potential partners. No conclusive universal standards exist.
  • Earning power: Limited data shows lighter eyed professionals earn slightly higher incomes on average compared to those with brown eyes.

While some tentative patterns exist for athleticism, attractiveness, and income, none of these are determined solely by eye color. Overall there is no strong evidence linking eye color to definitive outcomes in other areas.


Modern scientific research has revealed eye color is primarily determined by genetics and ancestry, with three key genes dictating the amount and type of melanin pigment in the iris. While eye color frequencies and distributions can vary substantially between ethnic groups and regions, there is no conclusive evidence that eye color alone is a consistent predictor for personality, health, intelligence, or other individual attributes.

Some small-scale studies have found tentative links between lighter eye colors and increased light sensitivity, alcohol dependence, income and athletic performance in certain sports. Connections between dark brown eyes and higher risks for certain cancers have also been proposed. However, these links remain weak and inconclusive without larger, more diverse research.

Overall, eye color represents just a single, mostly cosmetic genetic trait, like hair color. It likely has little true bearing on someone’s character, health or abilities. While the hue of someone’s eyes may be the first thing you notice, it should not be the basis for making meaningful judgments about who they are as a person. The many wonderful and complex aspects of human nature go far deeper than the surface pigmentation of the iris.