Vail Daily column: Playing dominoes |

Vail Daily column: Playing dominoes

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

Whenever I’m asked where the ideas for my commentaries come from I usually respond with one word — “dominoes.” OK, allow me to explain. We’ve all played dominoes at one time or another during our lives, and in many respects we continue playing an iteration of the game.

Well perhaps not in the literal sense, but playing dominoes is an excellent metaphor for what occurs in our brain when one thing leads to another. For example, you paint your daughter’s bedroom because she’s no longer enamored of shocking pink walls. Then, as soon as you’re finished you realize that by comparison your son’s room appears dingy, which leads to painting his bedroom — and so on.

Or let’s say you’re thinking about buying a set of snow tires. The thought of putting snow tires on your car may lead to thoughts about winter driving in general, which might then lead to thoughts about a particular situation you experienced while driving through a snowstorm, which could lead to thoughts about the person who was with you during that storm, which leads to … well, you get the idea. I call this one thing leads to another phenomenon dominoes, i.e. how an idea, event or activity can result in another that you haven’t planned for.

Which brings me to today’s commentary, which is the result of a little trick I learned about photographing women, to wit. Professional photographers understand that using Photoshop isn’t the only way to make their models look more attractive. They know that big, dilated pupils are far more appealing to the opposite sex (makes no difference which sex, it works in both directions) than are smaller pupils.

I personally find this information of interest because I teach a DSLR photography workshop at the Alpine Arts Center in Edwards. And when preparing for my workshops I do a bit of homework, which means research. So I decided to investigate the scientific reasons why large pupils are more attractive to the opposite sex than are smaller pupils.

Support Local Journalism

While researching the subject I was introduced to an unfamiliar term — pupillometry, i.e., the study and measurement of the pupil of the eye. As noted, studies have shown that men and women find photographs of people of the opposite sex more attractive when that person’s eyes are dilated than when they are not.

Scientifically speaking, there are numerous reasons for dilated pupils, but from a photographer’s perspective he or she knows low light will cause pupils to dilate. And with this information, many professional photographers will purposely keep their studio lights relatively low in order that their model’s pupils dilate before they use a flash or strobe to actually take the picture.

As I was researching the matter, one thing led to another (there’s those dominoes again) and I began investigating the non-physical (psychological/emotional) reasons for pupil dilation, and learned that physical and psychological pleasure will also cause this phenomenon.

This led to me asking what happens if/when we combine the physical with the emotional reasons for pupil dilation. We already know that when attracted to someone of the opposite sex our eyes dilate (an emotional cause of dilation) so I decided to link this with a physical reason, i.e., a romantic candle light dinner, and could understand why that before too long the parties will be looking at each other through pupils the size of silver dollars. (Perhaps this is where the term “bedroom eyes” comes from.) Conversely, if you’re really turned off by someone, then you may find your pupils contracting.

It’s long been said the eyes are the windows to the soul, and in the process of researching pupillometry for my workshop I came across another field that focuses on eye-movement patterns as well as pupil size — Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP for short)

NLP describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (programming).

It’s been said that once we have the key to someone’s eye movements we will always know what they’re thinking. Well perhaps not the specific thoughts, but eye movements are a dead giveaway when someone is not telling the truth, or when they’re accessing something from memory or cognitively thinking about something in the future.

In fact, many card sharks (or is it sharps?) rely on pupil size and eye-movement patterns to discern “tells” in the players sitting across the table from them. Dilated pupils or a particular eye movement will let the “sharp” know if the player has a potential winning hand or is bluffing.

And speaking of card sharps, did you know one of the etymologies that are frequently debated in bars is that of card shark v. card sharp. The question is which is the correct term. Both terms mean someone skilled in cheating at cards, but card sharp is the older of the two, appearing as early as 1884? And speaking of 1884 …

Quote of the day: “Vegetarian is actually an old Indian word meaning lousy hunter.” — Andy Rooney

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

Support Local Journalism