Survivalists suggest that "A human face is a dead giveaway to the trained eye against a heavily forested background."
Actually, the face of any creature attracts attention, particularly a big creature like a bear. Leaving a state park on one of Michigan's rural peninsulas, I noticed a face peering at me over a road sign, and my brain immediately registered curiosity and bear. Ducking, the bear moved out of sight and I thought I must have seen a stump.
Then the bear crossed the road.
Perhaps it was not the face, but the eyes - and the reason I initially registered an emotion over the creature itself. Another survivalist page advises carrying sunglasses: "Being able to look into someone's eyes gives you a lot of insight into what they are feeling and thinking."
Human eyes do still out more than others because of the ample white color surrounding the iris and pupil - which allows others to determine what our eyes are staring at even if our head is not pointed n that direction. " Knowing what another person is looking at provides valuable information about what she is thinking and feeling, and what she might do next," wrote Michael Tomasello, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, for the New York Times. "If I am, in effect, advertising the direction of my eyes, I must be in a social environment full of others who are not often inclined to take advantage of this to my detriment — by, say, beating me to the food or escaping aggression before me. Indeed, I must be in a cooperative social environment in which others following the direction of my eyes somehow benefits me."
The cooperative eye hypothesis might explain why in some societies women don veils, covering the entire face, even the eyes, and why veils in other societies expose the eyes.
Photo by D. Olsen