Of the many carotenoids circulating in human sera, only lutein and zeaxanthin are accumulated throughout the tissues of the eye. Within the eye, they reach their highest concentration in the central retina, where they are clinically referred to as the macula lutea. Lutein and zeaxanthin, more commonly referred to as macular pigments, may serve a variety of roles in the specialized vision of higher primates. This paper reviews recent studies investigating the influence of macular pigments on human visual performance. Such studies have offered insight into why lutein and zeaxanthin are uniquely concentrated in ocular tissues.