I created a woman so beautiful she made me melt

January 22, 2007 | By | 5 Replies More

Really, I did.  You, too, can create a surreally attractive male or female by using the Face Laboratory run by two experimental psychologists working at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Your hyper-attractive face will actually be made by a computer. You’ll help by choosing the “ingredients” (a few or many faces), and the program averages them into a final product.  This averaging process downplays imperfections and results in exquisite symmetry.  

What’s amazing to me is that strikingly attractive averaged faces result even when (maybe especially when) you choose some of the faces that might initially appear relatively unattractive. 

As explained in the site’s FAQ’s:

Symmetry is one aspect of faces that has been extensively studied by many researchers in relation to attractiveness. The most common method used to investigate the effect symmetry has on the attractiveness of faces involves manipulating the symmetry of face images using sophisticated computer graphic methods and assessing the effect that this manipulation has on perceptions of the attractiveness of the faces.

But why should we be attracted to symmetry.  Evolutionary psychologists suggest an answer:  symmetry is a token for health, and therefore fitness to reproduce:

But why would cognitive averaging have evolved? Evolutionary biology holds that in any given population, extreme characteristics tend to fall away in favor of average ones. Birds with unusually long or short wings die more often in storms. Human babies who are born larger or smaller than average are less likely to survive. The ability to form an average-mate template would have conveyed a singular survival advantage.

Inclination toward the average is called koinophilia, from the Greek words koinos, meaning “usual,” and philos, meaning “love.” To Langlois, humans are clearly koinophiles. The remaining question is whether our good-mate template is acquired or innate. To help solve the mystery, Langlois’s doctoral student Lisa Kalakanis has presented babies who are just 15 minutes old with paired images of attractive and homely faces. “We’re just starting to evaluate that data,” says Langlois.

But koinophilia isn’t the only-or even supreme-criterion for beauty that evolution has promoted, other scientists argue. An innate yearning for symmetry is a major boon, contend biologists Anders Moller and Randy Thornhill, as asymmetry can signal malnutrition, disease, or bad genes. The two have found that asymmetrical animals, ranging from barn swallows to lions, have fewer offspring and shorter lives.

So get going, now!  Go create somebody.

No!  Wait!  First, a thought.  Is it possible that one’s life would look more attractive if a bunch of our lives were averaged together?  Any one person’s life is often disjointed, with moments of stumbling, error and bad judgment (that is certainly and often the story of my life).  But what if we could somehow average together a particular life with the lives of 20 other people picked at random, then run some sort of “averaged” video of the result?   Would there result be graceful, confident, sublime?  Or would we miss the edges and the pimples?

And what if the whole world were full of people that looked like the super-averaged computer results from this site, but then along came some regular people with their lack of perfect symmetry?  Would they be seen as ugly or as distinctively attractive?  Who would that society choose to be its models and movie stars, the non-symmetrical or the symmetrical?


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Category: Psychology Cognition, Web Site, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. I have just stumbled onto your blog, and I just wanted to say that I love it, this post and many others. There should really be more cultural psychology/philosophy blogs like this one… keep up the excellent writing.

  2. Cleptomanx says:

    I guess my post yesterday didn't go through… I basically said that I thought this article was very interesting and quite agree with the findings of symmetry being very attractive. But, sometimes it also takes a little more than a pretty face to really get your motor running.

    There is also the proportions of the body that can be extrememly attractive. Not to be too crass (although, I will be), but a lot of guys have no problems going out with "Butterfaces". If it is not readily known, a butterface is a girl who has a very nice body, but a less than attractive face. In these cases the proportions… large rack and sweet pants meat, outweigh the lack of symmetry (or teeth sometimes) in the face.

    Reminds me of that scene from Scary Movie Two when a demon girl encountered Marlon Wayans in the closet. He screamed at the sight of her when she came close enough for him to see her face, but the next scene he was boffing her while she was wearing a bag over her head.

    Yes, crude, but definitely frames the point pretty well 😉

  3. babemaker says:

    Can you give a quick "Click here, do this, etc" to fast-forward me to the babe-maker?

    I participated in a couple experiments but no babe resulted.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    babemaker: Now that things have settled down at this site and the face-averaging site, click on the second link in the article. Then click on "Make an average face." Then click on more than 2 of the faces from the big grid of faces. Then click on "View Average." Every one of my "experiments" has resulted in a strikingly beautiful face. What's surprising is that these faces are strikingly beautiful because they are stikingly average–thus symmetrical. There are other activities at the site too. If you're brave and inclined, go hence and then report back to us.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Psychologists found that men with feminine facial features are seen as more committed and less likely to cheat on their partners. http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/Title,14883,en.h

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