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One Study Explores Relationship Between Pupil Size And Attention, Reasoning And Memory




Erika Jimenez, a fourth grade teacher in the school district, has her iris recorded into the iris recognition system at Park Avenue Elementary School January 30, 2006 in Freehold, New Jersey. Iris recognition systems use a video camera to record the colored ring around the eye's pupil, identifying the unique markings in the iris which identify each person.
Erika Jimenez, a fourth grade teacher in the school district, has her iris recorded into the iris recognition system at Park Avenue Elementary School January 30, 2006 in Freehold, New Jersey. Iris recognition systems use a video camera to record the colored ring around the eye's pupil, identifying the unique markings in the iris which identify each person.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

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Could the size of one’s pupils be an indicator of cognitive ability?

A newly-published study in the peer reviewed journal Cognition suggests there may indeed be a correlation between pupil size and higher scores on tests that measure cognitive abilities. The authors measured the size of the pupils of over 500 study participants with a high powered camera and computer that can measure how light reflects off the pupil and cornea. Then, they had the participants work through a series of tests that looked at things like memory capacity, “fluid intelligence,” which they define as the capacity to reason through new problems and attention control during distractions. The researchers report finding higher scores in fluid intelligence and attention control, and to a lesser degree memory capacity, among people with larger pupils, findings they argue tell us have some fascinating implications for what we know about the relationship between our eyes and the brain.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk more with the lead author of this new study about how they set up their experiment, what they found as they analyzed the data they collected and what it all tells us.

Guest:

Jason Tsukahara, Ph.D. student in cognition and brain science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he does research in the Attention & Working Memory Lab; lead author of a new study published in the journal Cognition, “Is baseline pupil size related to cognitive ability? Yes (under proper lighting conditions)