Eyes only

The Well Quiz at NYTimes.com offers a test on how well you can read people’s emotions. I suspected, going in, that I might not do well.

The test is simple: you look at the picture of someone’s eyes, and you pick the one emotion that seems to match up with the person’s expression. There are three dozen in all, and here’s how it’s scored:

The average score for this test is in the range of 22 to 30 correct responses. If you scored above 30, you may be quite good at understanding someone’s mental state based on facial cues. If you scored below 22, you may find it difficult to understand a person’s mental state based on their appearance.

I scored 13.

And this is the part that surprises me the least: where the answer was “interested” or “flirtatious,” I was always wrong.


  1. Roberta X »

    5 October 2013 · 8:47 pm


  2. Kate P »

    5 October 2013 · 8:48 pm

    Shouldn’t you be relieved you can’t tell if guys are flirting with you? Kidding. . .

    It was interesting! I wonder if there are factors that make it easier or harder for a person to read facial cues.

    I expected to get a lot wrong, because I have social anxiety and often feel awkward with people, but I ended up with a score of 30. And I would’ve gotten higher if I hadn’t second-guessed myself a couple of times.

  3. Jeffro »

    5 October 2013 · 9:07 pm


  4. CGHill »

    5 October 2013 · 9:16 pm

    @Kate: I think I’m somewhere in the upper quartile when it comes to social isolation, which could conceivably be a factor.

  5. sya »

    5 October 2013 · 9:24 pm

    Holy crap, I got a 31. With my loner tendencies, I did not expect to score so high. On the other hand, there was only one example which I had no idea and just guessed at random.

  6. Don »

    5 October 2013 · 10:08 pm

    23, which is 14 more than I expected.

  7. Joseph Hertzlinger »

    6 October 2013 · 1:42 am

    I scored 24. I have achieved mediocrity. (I suspect I would have done worse at judging tones of voice.)

  8. McGehee »

    6 October 2013 · 7:43 am

    A static picture is challenging and, I think, pointless — because we make these judgments in real life based on multiple factors, including context.

    I will now go and take the test and see how I do.

  9. McGehee »

    6 October 2013 · 7:54 am

    28. I started off badly until I began judging them as if they were actors told to take on certain expressions for the purpose of being photographed.

    The point being, the expressions people put on deliberately to send a nonverbal message aren’t necessarily the expressions they would put on spontaneously as a result of a genuine mood.

  10. JT »

    6 October 2013 · 11:37 am

    25, and I was honestly surprised, especially after I misjudged the first 5 or 6. The eyebrows gave me a better gauge than the eyes themselves.

  11. Tatyana »

    6 October 2013 · 1:05 pm

    Apparently, women’s expressions mistily me.
    Well, in reality they are not -but given those strange photographs, more like cutouts from Turkish porn pics, I’m not ashamed to say I scored only 25.
    Half of those expressions are definitely what they call “fantasizing” – they are anything but.

  12. CGHill »

    6 October 2013 · 1:11 pm

    Surprisingly, I’ve seen very little Turkish porn.

  13. fillyjonk »

    6 October 2013 · 2:33 pm

    26 here, and interestingly, I voted the eyes that were “friendly” as “dominating.”

    That actually explains a lot. (do not look directly at me…..)

  14. Tatyana »

    6 October 2013 · 3:41 pm

    What, Chaz, after series of all those Turkish actresses, you going to tell us that was not the tip of the iceberg? that all your other Turkish searches are not below waterline?
    those eyebrows, practically a central-asian unibrow above the eyes with cunning absence of expression – who would’ve knew what’s behind there?

  15. CGHill »

    6 October 2013 · 4:30 pm

    I was in Turkey the year I turned twenty-one, so there’s at least some reason for keeping an eye on Turkish women other than the joy of HTML markup with the Turkish alphabet. But I had already descended into the Abyss of Cluelessness by then, and as a result learned nothing.

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