Saturday, May 13, 2006

Beautiful people are normal

Alex Tabarrok blogs about how, as we average out the faces of more and more people, the resulting composite face grows ever more attractive.
I remember reading somewhere (where??) that the reason for this is the same reason that Leo Tolstoy's gag in Anna Karenina ("Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way") is true.
What do you think?

5 comments:

Rajani said...

The research mentioned by Alex Tabarrok took faces at random and averaged them. The resulting average face would be more 'symmetric'...many too long noses and many too short noses averaged to give a 'nose that is of just the correct length'(one not disfiguered by autistic stereotypy like yours :). Wonder what the end result would be if one takes lots of unattractive (wonder whether that is the politically correct term is face processing research...it is better than saying ugly, I guess) faces and averaged them?

Rajeev Ramachandran said...

I guess the process would still have work. Unattractive faces would have more "blemishes" than the typical face (This is SO nasty!), but any given blemish would occur in very few of the unattractive faces so, on averaging out the faces, most blemishes would tend to disappear until the resulting face is average, and eventually beautiful. Some noses would be too long, some too short, but average them out and you get a perfect nose like mine. Autistic stereotypy, indeed!
Thats why Tolstoy's crack is so apt- a hapy family is one where everything is just right, but unhappy families would have unique blemishes...

Rajeev Ramachandran said...

Good comment, that- must be the 50% genes you share with me. :-)

Jay said...

what if we took a lot of attractive faces and then did the same experiment. What then ?

Rajeev Ramachandran said...

The same. Increasing symmetry. More attractive. In all three cases, with diminishing marginal returns.