I just want big cat eyes (i.e., lions, tigers, etc.) in a humanoid that can be just as expressive as a human's yet not having our very conspicuous eye-whites. Doable, yes or no?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you give some more context and explanation? For starters, what is a cooperative eye? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 2 '18 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ This appears to be two separate questions. The cooperative eye hypothesis suggests that human eyes have evolved to allow one human to perceive where another human is looking. Then in the body of the question there is a question about "expressive" - which is about perceiving the emotional state of a person from looking at their eyes (actually the surrounding skin). Which one of these are you wanting to know? $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Sep 2 '18 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ If it's about a humanoid it may be more a matter of mirror neurones than about eye structures for one person to perceive where another is looking. Gaining cues from the eye itself will definitely help. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 2 '18 at 9:01

Yes. Two ways.

For excellent simulation of this, watch one of the King Kong remakes. Kong does not have white sclera but they do a great job making his face expressive.

Or here are the chimps. You cannot see their sclera, usually, but they have very expressive faces.


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The muscles of the face do a lot of the work too.

Alternatively, if you want a catlike pokerface but cooperative eye eye effect you could replicate the effect of white sclera by having very light irises and large pupils. Our primate cousins generally have very dark irises and it is hard to pick out the pupil and so hard to tell where they are looking. The majority of humans today still have very dark irises but because of white sclera you can tell where the iris/pupil unit is pointed - the cooperative eye effect. But you can have very light irises where it is easy to pick out the pupil in the center, and so see where an individual is looking. Some Europeans have light irises but cats do it best.

cat with green eyes source

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    $\begingroup$ Wolves also use the "dark pupil/light iris contrast". Social canines typically have lighter irises (yellow or orange) than solitary ones like foxes. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix Sep 3 '18 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ What about how much someone would need to turn their head to look at something to the side? Human eyes have a wide range of movement but say, your pet dog doesn't catch the cue to look at what you're looking at unless you turn your head directly at it. Could this darkpupil-lightiris theory work for that too or would it be a race of "socially obtuse" people from a human perspective -- they might not actually be obtuse, of course, just clashing understandings of body language. $\endgroup$ – CA Pichowsky Sep 5 '18 at 10:12

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