Variations in Anatomy - anyone know about this?

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  09 September 2005
Originally Posted by John Keates: I kinda had a thought about my last post just there. I came to thinking that maybe many artists have a certain ability to percieve character which stems from the same source as our artistic ability.
Maybe I put too much emphesis on science as the only way forward...

Humans are visual animals.Within the 4 first seconds when we see someone, we subconsciously decide whether we like him or not. We are all transmitters and receivers of the visual information our faces carry.
Women, have evolutionary evolved this ability to discern visually the mood due to their task of having to understand how their babies felt, if they where ok or not.
Certainly artists who are more perceptive and observant, have this ability more developed, than an accountant for example...

And another interesting finding is that we perceive others faces as caricatures.

We seem to be able to read more from these exaggerated drawings than the tracings that reproduce the features accurately. The exaggerated lines trigger recognition better than literal sketches..
We encode the appearance and keep the highlights within our brain...
  09 September 2005
Quote: I guess that the faces of the criminals in the study were more hansome as a result of the fact that they have more testosterone

No, the reason is that we are always much more likely to perceive any group of faces averaged together to be more attractive than any one single face. As long as the selection contains enough faces - you'll start to see the effect at 2, it will quickly become more pronounced up to a handful, then gradually level off.
This effect works for both sexes, I've tried it in Photoshop (though using a morphing app would be better). You can try it yourself, that book of 1000 faces from the streets of New York, for instance, would be perfect source material for such experiments I suspect. (obviously don't mix men with women, kids with seniors, etc.) There are websites about it too, but I can't find them atm.
  09 September 2005
Originally Posted by evanfotis: "Recent scientific research, shows that we have genes that are responsible for physical traits and genes responsible for psychological traits.
I appreciate your sceptisism but you have to look a bit deeper into this field and then come up with a conclusion."

You seem to have gotten me wrong there. I am in no way saying that our behaviour and looks are not controled by genes in any way... in fact that should have been quite clear by my post. I was just illustrating that Victorian notions of how this works are faulty and we have to more-or-less start again without the assumptions that we all have and are brought up with.

You seem to be working with the idea that a gene can only have one effect and this can either be for looks or behaviour. If this is the case then it is you who need to look deeper into the field.


In fact, the guy doing that study (sorry evanfotis, I don't know his name) originally did the same thing with "normal" people outside of prison and the comparison was between the two averaged faces, not between an averaged on and a non-averaged one. Sorry, I should have made that clear.

Also, you seem to be hugging on to the notion that there is AN ideal face. I don't contest that an averaged face may be deemed more attractive than an individual photo but a simplistic enterpretation of the result is mis-leading.

For instance, women on heat find masculine men more attractive but when they are not on heat they prefer more feminine looking men. This is intirely consistant with gene theory but inconsistant with the idea that there is a single ideal.

Now, I could try to explain the gene theory to you but that is a whole other subject and takes us away from art somewhat.

The bottom line is that there is more than one way to be attractive and looking for a singular ideal of beauty doen't stand up to reason particularly when viewed in scientific terms.

There are lots of reasons why averaged faces will tend to look more attractive. The symmetry thing is a compelling idea and certainly we can say that symmetry is a facter in attractiveness. Averaged faces will tend towards symmetry. Blemishes will tend to get faded out (it is easy to see why un-usual marks on skin might be un-attractive as they are associated with desiese). Also, any harsh marks will tend to get ironed out.

In other words, there are different ways that the faces could be averaged. It always struck me that the simple averaging of photos is a very crude way to go. Actually, those montaged photos have a dreamy sfumato look that Leonardos stuff often had. Maybe this works by giving an "evening time" look to the face which could be more sexy? It is equivelent to photographing someone in soft warm lighting rather than cold harsh lighting. The beauty effect is perhaps as much to do with the style of depiction than the face itself? Again, I am not denying the use of gene theory when considering beauty, just that we need to be carefull.

A more mathematically accurate way to average the faces would take into account the number of moles and where they are (for example) so the resulting average face may have some moles (unless the average number is only a fraction of 1 ). Moles are generally deemed un-attractive but some people like them.

So again, in short, I am all for finding genetic (as well as cultural) reasons which shold be factored into our understanding of human beauty but I am just saying that we need to be carefull about coming to any quick conclusions as it is a tricky subject.

For example, a lot of people who think they know about evolution don't realise that it is GENES that are subject to natural selection and not individuals or groups. Once you grasp this and its implications then you start to get a better picture of what genetic variation means.

I recommend "The Selfish Gene" as a starter although it takes some effort to get through it.

Last edited by John Keates : 09 September 2005 at 09:02 PM.
  09 September 2005
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