The eye flash is similar to the eyebrow flash in that they both occur very quickly. In the case of the eye flash it lasts on average for only 0.75 seconds but is easily perceived and is quite obvious. The eye flash is a momentary widening of the eyelids during a conversation to reveal the sclera, or whites of the eyes, with no involvement of the eyelids. Humans are the only primates that have whites around their eyes whereas other ape’s eyes are completely dark. It has been theorized that the whites of the eyes evolved as a means of communication helping indicate eye direction.
The eyeflash when given by a speaker, emphasizes specific words being spoken. The eyeflash can serve to change the meaning of a given word or phrase by putting emphasis on one word over another. It normally accompanies adjectives rather than any other parts of speech, and women use it more often them men. I did however notice Brad Pitt perform the eyeflash repeatedly while in a speaking scene in a movie. I’m not sure exactly sure what his intent of the flash entailed, as it accompanied no talking and it occurred once every few seconds while listening, and to me, it seemed odd. Never-the- less he must have thought it added emphasized to his part in the scene. Of note is when eyebrows start and stop flashing as they indicate attachment and excitement with whatever content is being presented. If eyes suddenly stop flashing then it’s likely that a person is lacking in enthusiasms and commitment for the topic at hand. The eyeflash is also association with raised eyebrows to signal submission. Lowering the eyebrows of course, signals the opposite, that is dominance.
On the other hand, a loving mother will widen her eyes when viewing her newborn baby indicating that she cares for them and within seventy-two hours of birth her child will do the same when she enters the room. Eye widening is a positive nonverbal cue indicating that someone is observing positive stimuli that bring them joy and happiness. Eye widening is another form of gravity defying behaviour that is ubiquitous in showing positive emotions and joy. When true contentment is present the eyes will lack any tension at all and will appear relaxed. The size of the eyes directly indicates how positive someone is about a topic. While making eyes bigger and flashing them means that good thoughts are held, squinting where the eyes are compressed means negative thought are held. The same goes for lowered eyebrows!
The final eye cue is flashbulb eyes, which is done by dramatically opening the eyes as big and wide as possible. The eyebrows usually arch in unison as well to make the eyes appear even larger. The cue is usually done to indicate surprise and positive emotions such as being excited to see someone, or have been given a promotion.
[help! – Brad Pitt’s filmology shows over sixty movies and I can’t figure out which movie he was in when he did the eye flash. I do recall it was an older movie and don’t think he was actively speaking at the time, more listening, and in an alley/dark area of some sort. If you know the movie send it my way!]