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Everything is average nowadays
February 12, 2011 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Face Research (previously) averaged faces of women from 41 countries to create the "average" face in each country.

Face Research has short writeups on a number of topics related to facial attractiveness, including
facial averageness and attractiveness


Try it yourself!
posted by quiet coyote (57 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Boo on there not being an "average American" face. That would have been fun. (Though I suppose we can do that just by averaging all the average faces together in the right proportions. Someone want to get on that?)
posted by phunniemee at 9:45 AM on February 12, 2011


I guess "average woman" doesn't include any little old ladies.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


How were the women selected, and how many women in each country were photographed?
posted by lukemeister at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What are the countries of West and Central Africa?

(but still pretty cool)
posted by ChuraChura at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


41 countries is misleading -- separate faces for South India and India for instance. Did we secede some time when I wasn't watching? (The revolution is catching!)
posted by peacheater at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


West Africa and Central Africa aren't countries. Good thing that Face Research knows how to write about Africa.
posted by Paragon at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The average South African woman looks pretty white. That can't be right.
posted by craichead at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Which only goes to prove the old saying that after a few drinks all the babes begin to look like beauties.
posted by Postroad at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Living in Stockholm, it seems to me, most women here are incredibly, staggeringly average.
posted by three blind mice at 10:03 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you play around with the demo, it soon becomes clear that whatever it is doing is very good at making attractive faces out of, well... anything. Seriously: creepy. Though the men end up looking a bit effeminate.

On the other hand, it seems pretty accurate, at least as far as giving evidence to my personal preconceptions. Wonder how their sample populations were selected.

three blind mice: You're probably on to something. When I first come from Scandinavia to the US as a young boy, I remember being struck by the huge gaps in physical attractiveness.
posted by Aiwen at 10:07 AM on February 12, 2011


This would be a lot more convincing if they'd colour-corrected the photos before averaging them. Or are Romanian women really magenta?
posted by Nelson at 10:12 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As others have commented, seems to be a bias (either in the sample or in the process) to lightening skin. African women surely are darker than African-American women, and I don't see that in these photos.

FYI to others looking, I had to go to Firefox to get the photo gallery to work (I know, if I was one of the cool kids, I would be using it all the time).
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:18 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


FYI to others looking, I had to go to Firefox to get the photo gallery to work (I know, if I was one of the cool kids, I would be using it all the time).

Yeah, JavaScript-only navigation is A-grade asshole behavior, IMHO.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:29 AM on February 12, 2011


The authors of the study owe a great deal to the groundwork laid in Wilson and Love, 1965 and Lennon and McCartney, 1968.
posted by condour75 at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2011


Wow, averaged faces are way more attractive than average people's faces.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


I like that it lets you average your own images. As soon as I get home, I'm going to upload pictures of all my relatives to get the average Penguin.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Kind of wonder what nationality "Chinese" is supposed to be.

The Try it yourself! link is pretty interesting.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Select-select-select-select Crunch CRUSH
Reset
Select-select-select Crunch CRUSH
Reset
Wierdo-wierdo-wierdo Crunch CRUSH
Reset
select-select *sob*
posted by Namlit at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wierdo-wierdo-wierdo Crunch CRUSH
Yeah, even though I logically understand what's going on, it's just so very strange that you can explicitly select the people that you find the most unattractive, and result in someone who's drop-dead gorgeous.
posted by Flunkie at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Face Research (previously) averaged faces of women from 41 countries to create the "average" face in each country.

These composites were created by a random blogger using the Face Research application. Saying Face Research did the images is like saying Adobe creates an image every time anyone uses Photoshop.
posted by dgaicun at 11:00 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


so many buttons and yet none of them work in Chrome
posted by nathancaswell at 11:06 AM on February 12, 2011


Boo on there not being an "average American" face. That would have been fun. (Though I suppose we can do that just by averaging all the average faces together in the right proportions. Someone want to get on that?)

I just picked every woman that looked like she might be desperate enough to move to America in the 1800s. Judging by the picture, I might be related to her.
posted by hanoixan at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah. It's interesting to see how the creators of this project came up with their very essentialized archetypes. (That said, I'm not entirely sure what the value of such a project would be.)

In most instances, the creators found country-as-nationality to be sufficient. But for Africa and America, national identity was separated from political boundaries. As other people have pointed out, in Africa's case, it was made more generic: Wide geographic (and ethnic) swaths were mashed together, betraying either disinterest or ignorance or both.

In the case of Americans, the survey was made more specific, African-Americans and Puerto Ricans were separated out from the general population, more or less suggesting that they don't fit into the concept of "average American." Which is screwed up in its own right.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


The blogger probably got the pictures from flickr or something. Just a guess, but I bet that some of these "countries" are like that because there weren't enough photos from a smaller area. And that the average photo on flickr is of a richer person than the average person in that actual country.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


These composites were created by a random blogger using the Face Research application.

Wow, I totally misread the Mashable article. Thanks for pointing that out. I backtracked to Reddit, where it says that Dienekes' Anthropology Blog is the original source, but I can't find the original article. Face Research is regularly used on that blog, though, with pretty interesting results.
posted by quiet coyote at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was looking for a Canadian face, and didn't find one. It really would be impossible to come up with an "average" Canadian or American face because almost all North Americans are or are descended from immigrants. Whoever's doing this would be using the faces of women who are ethnically Polish, German, Welsh, or what have you.
posted by orange swan at 11:35 AM on February 12, 2011


Ah, racism.
posted by ZaneJ. at 11:41 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't remember where I read it -- most likely in the reddit thread -- but the reason that averaged faces are so attractive is because averaging tends to cancel out asymmetries and we are wired to find symmetry attractive. The averaging process also tends to cancel out skin blemishes and gives the appearance of smooth, clear skin.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The average woman is more attractive than the average woman.
posted by w0mbat at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Average, schmaverage. Not once have I ever seen a woman with blurry hair.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:24 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drink more.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:26 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Either they apply some prettifying filter (making faces softer, smoother, more regular?) or there's something strange at work. Averaging less-than-attractive faces of whatever gender or ethnicity gives attractive results even when some of the "strongest" features are kept, and averaging pretty ones returns top models. It never returns faces of average attractiveness. Anyone tried several different pics of the same person to see if the prettifying happens there too? Or pictures of elder men from this post? The prettifying would be useful for resumes (in countries where headshots are expected on them)...
posted by elgilito at 1:35 PM on February 12, 2011


I couldn't navigate the gallery in firefox or chrome.
posted by Bonzai at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2011


Either they apply some prettifying filter (making faces softer, smoother, more regular?) or there's something strange at work.

No, nothing strange at work. The best looking people are the one who are closest to average in their proportions. Huge noses, eyes set too far apart or too close together, crooked teeth, lopsided smiles, gigantic eyebrows--those are the things that combine to make people less attractive. Grab pics of different unattractive people and when you average them out, you'll get something very close to beautiful. Average out the pictures of fifty ugly people and you'll get a real hottie. Pretty people aren't pretty because their features are unusual. They are pretty because their features are extraordinarily average.
posted by cute little Billy Henderson, age 4 at 2:03 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or, to put it another way perhaps, a lot of people who are unattractive are unattractive because of some way they deviate from the average. This process removes all those deviations, and you end up with a face with no "flaws". It has no striking individuality, either— but although that can be attractive it isn't necessary for attractiveness.

IIRC this is a pretty well known effect, I remember reading about it a decade or more ago.
posted by hattifattener at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2011


They are pretty because their features are extraordinarily average
True, but attractiveness standards differ between cultures, and so does what makes "too big" or "too far apart" features. My wife (who is from another ethnic background) and I often discuss of what makes pretty people in our respective cultures and while the standards do intersect, there are noticeable differences too. In the present case, the standard seems to correspond to the current (and recent) Western idea of beauty (or at least the standard I've been taught to appreciate by decades of advertising and movie-making). From what we see in classical paintings, Western and Japanese (to use a non-Western example) ideals were radically different from their current state not so long ago. But the average folks here look like top models from the late XXth century while the genetics haven't changed significantly.
posted by elgilito at 2:36 PM on February 12, 2011


Average, schmaverage. Not once have I ever seen a woman with blurry hair.

Really? My SO spends hundreds each year de blurring her hair
posted by the noob at 3:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This would be an impossible experiment to run for Lake Wobegon.
posted by sonika at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Score one for evolutionary psychology.
posted by LordSludge at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2011


Huge noses, eyes set too far apart or too close together, crooked teeth, lopsided smiles, gigantic eyebrows--those are the things that combine to make people less attractive.

*Looks at reflective surface.*

Oh god, my eyes are set too far apart and too close together. And my hair is in focus!

*Bursts out in tears, runs out of room sobbing loudly.*
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2011


It doesn't matter, because in 1,000 years everyone will look Chinese.
posted by bwg at 3:46 PM on February 12, 2011


Why is that? The Chinese population is going to implode in 50 years or so.

Maybe Indian.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on February 12, 2011


If you play around with the demo, it soon becomes clear that whatever it is doing is very good at making attractive faces out of, well... anything.

Behold the power of symmetry. The more symmetric the left and right side of a face, the more people will regard the person as attractive. It's likely an evolutionary instinct to help in mate selection; asymmetry is a greater indicator for genetic anomalies that could lead to less healthy babies. Humans are naturally symmetrical—the average of several slightly-askew features reveals the biological norm.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:15 PM on February 12, 2011


The lack of moustaches and beards ruined my plans of recreating the women from Aphex Twin's Windowlicker.
posted by ymgve at 4:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humans are naturally symmetrical—the average of several slightly-askew features reveals the biological norm.

I wonder what happened to testicles/breasts...?
posted by porpoise at 4:44 PM on February 12, 2011


FYI to others looking, I had to go to Firefox to get the photo gallery to work (I know, if I was one of the cool kids, I would be using it all the time).

Yeah, JavaScript-only navigation is A-grade asshole behavior, IMHO.

so many buttons and yet none of them work in Chrome

I couldn't navigate the gallery in firefox or chrome.


Yeah, aint working for me in either. Maybe something to do with the 10 trackers and the 18 friggin scripts..
posted by Ahab at 4:52 PM on February 12, 2011


Something's wrong with the global scaling. There's no way German women have nearly spherical heads in average. The Italian, Iranian and Afghan faces seem flattened as well. Also, the quality of the feature annotation is suspicious, the Spaniard average has remarkably lopsided eyebrows and the Israeli and Ethiopian heads are tilted to the left, although there should not be any rotation.
posted by ikalliom at 4:56 PM on February 12, 2011


Just tried with the old Danish men (plus one baby) from the 101 faces website.
- Averaging 95- to 100-year old men gives a dignified patrician face, somewhat younger, smoother and more regular than the original ones (who were quite good-looking already as noted in the original MeFi thread).
- Mixing the 1-year old and a 100-year old from the same set results in a bad case of progeria with a hint of Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button.
- Using negative values or values higher than 100% in the Transform demo results in nightmare fuel that cannot been unseen.
posted by elgilito at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are not average looking people. I suspect that in the "averaging" process the faces ended up being much more symmetrical than the individual average face if you follow me. Symmetry is a timeless standard of beauty...
posted by jcworth at 7:22 PM on February 12, 2011


That's funny... in LA, a lot of women pay a lot of money to look this "average".
posted by so_gracefully at 9:55 PM on February 12, 2011


These are not average looking people. I suspect that in the "averaging" process the faces ended up being much more symmetrical than the individual average face if you follow me. Symmetry is a timeless standard of beauty...

Um, yes? Isn't that the point?
posted by kagredon at 10:50 PM on February 12, 2011


That Greek chick is super hot.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 11:52 PM on February 12, 2011


I "averaged" out mine and the SO's photos, and had a sudden insight into... ahem, a possible future. Wow.
posted by the cydonian at 12:22 AM on February 13, 2011


The average woman is more attractive than the average woman.

The mean woman is more attractive then the median woman.

Also I swear they don't have enough sample sizes here...
posted by delmoi at 1:30 AM on February 13, 2011


Also, it's been known for over a hundred years that 'average' faces are better looking.
posted by delmoi at 1:31 AM on February 13, 2011


These are eigenfaces. There's been a decent amount of literature written about how (female) eigenfaces consistently rate as more attractive (and, for men, more effeminate), unfortunately a Google search for "eigenfaces attractiveness" is turning up mainly PDFs. But yes, basically by averaging out the imperfections, you create a more symmetrical, attractive face. Though the effect is, IIRC, the reverse for men; the most masculine face has been changed by a greater concentration of testosterone, and so is less neotenous.

But it's been a while since I was in Soc. Psych. class, so don't quote me on anything. The Internet is failing to refresh my memory (unless I sort through a bunch of PDFs, ugh).
posted by Eideteker at 9:22 AM on February 14, 2011


The mean woman is more attractive then the median woman.

I guess, if you're a masochist.



Oh. Nevermind.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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