Have you ever been a situation where you needed to smile for a picture outdoors but just could not help but squint because of the sunlight? For the longest time, I accepted that this was just some sort of strange idiosyncrasy of mine that prevented me from being very photogenic outdoors, until a story about baseball player Josh Hamilton made me think otherwise. Hamilton, a former professional baseball outfielder, had far superior batting statistics when playing at night (a more than 100 point difference)- a disparity that he attributed to his blue eyes in the sun. Is there legitimacy to his claim? Is eye color a factor that affects properties of sight?
Admittedly, I am not the first person to raise this question, but it is rather difficult to find any enlightening scientific data on this topic. This study, however, provides strong experimental backing to show a relationship between macular pigment and visual performance in glare conditions. By studying reactions to light stimuli in 36 healthy adults, researchers were able to determine that higher macular pigment densities led to a greater handling of glare. These findings can be synthesized with another study that provides the link between macular pigment density and eye color. Researchers were able to associate lower densities with lighter eye colors. The likely explanation for this is that people with lighter eye colors are more stressed in glare conditions, and that additional stress accelerates macular degeneration. These findings are consistent with the idea that light-eyed people might be at a disadvantage with regards to their vision clarity.
But what about other aspects of good vision? This is where the data ceases to support any kind of eye-color induced eyesight disparity. There are no studies that support the notion that people with a particular eye color have better vision. There is a study, however, that suggests that different eye colors might have advantages in certain areas of sight. For example, the study found that generally speaking, dark eyed individuals perform better at reactive tasks such as hitting a baseball while light eyed people slightly outperformed in self-paced activities such as hitting a gold ball. This subtle difference might support Josh Hamilton’s claims slightly, though the study ultimately concluded that there were no significant differences.
This issue can also be looked at with statistical analysis. In this article, the author attempts to demonstrate a statistical relationship between eye color and a night-day batting performance disparity. He began by determining that on average for all players, there was no significant difference in batting numbers between day and night games. He proceeded to analyze whether this held true for batters of specific eye colors. The statistics show that if anything, dark eye color slightly hindered performance, not aiding it as Josh Hamilton would suspect. The data support the idea that vision is largely unaffected by eye color.
Take away- It is true that people with lightly colored eyes might experience a slight disadvantage due to glare, but other than that there is no reason to suspect that having a certain eye color will come with any kind of eyesight advantage or disadvantage.
Note: The pictures themselves are links to their sources.