The Science of Beauty

The Science of Beauty: Part 3: Photoshop & The Subconscious Standard Of Ideal Beauty

The Science of Beauty is a new feature on The Mirror Reflects. This 3 part-series will dive into the mathematics of beauty, what is considered beautiful, and how that is achieved in 2014. It looks to shatter the myths of conventional beauty and promote the ideal that everyone is beautiful. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here

In Original Ideal, editorial photographer Scott Chasserot works to uncover our subconscious beauty ideals through psychology, brain scans, and Photoshop.

Chasserot begins by taking a plain studio portrait of his subjects. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Chasserot said he selects subjects that he finds “facially very interesting. Or that have interesting stories. A few people on the website are transgender.”
Chasserot then creates 50 new images by making small manipulations to the original portrait in Photoshop. These alternations can include tweaking the size of a subject’s eyes, the tone of a subject’s skin, and the width of a subject’s nose and chin.
Chasserot’s subjects are then hooked up to an Emotiv brain scanner and shown the portraits in rapid succession.

Based on whichever portrait the individual has the most “engagement” with, Chasserot determines the subject’s ideal self-image and displays the altered portrait beside the original. Below are the results of the experiment. The photos on the right show the original subject. The photos on the left show the “ideal” alterations, as chosen subconsciously by the subject.

All Photos Courtesy of  Scott Chasserot 


Chasserot can remember the precise moment that inspired Original Ideal.

“What got me thinking was seeing a woman with four toes on each foot, from a congenital disorder. It was a hot summer day and she was wearing sandals. My gut reaction was: Wow, I would never. If I had four toes on each foot, I wouldn’t wear sandals. That vain reaction we all have sometimes.”

“My second thought was: She’s very brave. She’s intelligent enough to not care too much about what other people think of her physical appearance. It made me think about how much we project onto other people, even strangers.”

The project questions: “What do we find instinctively in the human face and how does this translate to self-image? What assumptions would be make about another person if we could see their ideal self-image? Original Ideal combines portrait photography and neuroscience to isolate the subjects’ ideal self-image, a cerebrally sincere preference obtained by circumventing conscience thought.

“The idea is to produce a set of variations that either conform to the canons of beauty that have already been established, or go against it,”saysChasserot.

He goes on to say that, “the real goal of the project is to get people to react in that way. To get them thinking about how much they’re projecting onto the subjects’ ideal self image.”

 What do we define as the ideal face, for both ourselves and others? How does our subconscious influence beauty standards today?

Our subconscious idea of what is beautiful effects every part of our lives. It reflects how you style your hair or how you do your makeup (for example, those who wish for bigger eyes might style their eye makeup in a way that makes their eyes appear wider or fuller). Next time you look in the mirror, challenge yourself to re-think the typical thoughts. Don’t just criticize your appearance. Understand that you are wired to appreciate a specific type of beauty. Learn to embrace that the beauty you see in the mirror is just as precious as the one you subconsciously desire.


The Science of Beauty: Part 2: The Golden Ratio & The Quest For The Perfect Face

The Science of Beauty is a new feature on The Mirror Reflects. This 3 part-series will dive into the mathematics of beauty, what is considered beautiful, and how that is achieved in 2014. It looks to shatter the myths of conventional beauty and promote the ideal that everyone is beautiful.  Check out part 1 here and part 3 here.

With the millions of plastic surgery procedures and the countless over-the-counter cosmetic treatments, the entire world seems to be looking for a fix-all when it comes to their faces. Scientists across the world have been scrambling for the definition of a beautiful face. Since the earliest times, scientists have believe that facial beauty can come be reduced to one simple formula and that portions of an attractive face should follow certain defined ratios.

Neoclassical Canons view the face in proportions and have been proposed by artists dating back to the renaissance period as guides to drawing beautiful faces. It has a lot to do with symmetry, the distances between certain parts of the face and proportions — how different features measure up against each other. Dr. Kendra Schmid, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, uses a formula based on 29 different points on the face to calculate beauty. He experiment also involves symmetry. By plotting these 29 points on the face, they are able to measure symmetry in an objective way. Every separate calculation configures into the total, which is out of ten. Each separate facial feature gets examined. For example, Lips and their fullness. If your lips are very thin or extremely thick, your score will lower. Symmetry is considered ideal-  your nose should be as long as your ears, the space between your eyes should be equal to the length of each eye, etc.

angelinaembed.jpgAngelina Jolie-Pitt’s face, with the 29 points plotted on it, to measure for symmetry
Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

To get a perfect score, the distance between the eyes should be equal to the width of one eye, the nose is the same length as an ear, and the overall face is in line with the Golden Ratio equating to 1.618. The closest thing to the perfect face found in nature today, is Brad Pitt. Out of a total score of 10, Pitt scored a 9.67.

Dr. Stephen Marquardt created the Golden Mask, which he deems to be the template for the most beautiful face. He’s all about ratios. For example, he told The Washington Post that the width of the front two teeth in a supermodel’s smile is 1.618 times the height of each tooth. For each part of the body, he has a defined ratio. If, and only if, a body part matches his ratio, then it is deemed beautiful.

Marquardt-Beauty-Mask-Photoshop-RevisionAn example of how the Golden Mask is used to increase beauty
Photo Courtesy of Refinery 29

In 1990, psychologists Langlois and Roggman conducted a study about Averageness in order to show that a composite image of many overlaid faces (= the average) is in most cases more attractive than each individual face. There are also studies that suggest that it does not even matter if the faces used to create the composite are from allegedly attractive or unattractive subjects. The more faces are being used to create a composite face, the less pronounced an irregular feature or flaw would show up; so as a result of blending many faces into one individual blemishes and undesired skin complexions disappear. Further, any other irregularity such as asymmetries and large features would blend into a homogenous flawless (as in there is nothing unattractive about it) face.

beautycheck2Two faces morphed together to create a more “beautiful” face
Photo Courtesy of Refinery 29

Even scientific analysis cannot correctly quantify beauty. From the beginning of time, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are plenty of people who are beautiful, whose face won’t fit in the “golden mask”. In the averageness study, they blends many faces into one individual to remove blemishes or more striking features, but those striking features can often make a person look beautiful and unique. Overall, while the studies are interesting, they show the emphasis that our culture places on physical beauty. Rather than focus on the exact formula for the “most beautiful” face, rather than setting standards for beauty that are impossible to meet, our society should focus on creating a culture of acceptance and tolerance of all beauty. Because everyone is beautiful.