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The hypnotic beauty of the average face
June 18, 2007 5:04 AM   Subscribe

The hypnotic beauty of the average face. When you average out peoples facial features, the result is strangely beautiful. Which is odd. This captivating website lets you play with facial averaging and design your own people. You can upload your own face and nudge it towards the dark-eyed loveliness that we seem programmed to desire. There are also links to theories suggesting why average people, instead of being bland, are hot. Facial averaging has been discussed before. More on facial beauty from Germany and St Andrews.
posted by grahamwell (43 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
...the result is strangely beautiful. Which is odd.

Only if you haven't been reading science mags or watching any TLC or Discovery Channel in the last 10 years.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on June 18, 2007


Whoa! You're right, take a handful of ordinary (or even less-than-appealing) faces and average them and you get a shapely-cut 15-year-old staring back at you. Colour me impressed.
posted by Firas at 5:18 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's something generic (duh) about the oval contours though, if you think of most people regarded as beautiful to a mass audience they have more angular facial shapes.
posted by Firas at 5:21 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think I dated her. She wasn't all that; just so-so really. You know, average.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:30 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much is just due to averaging out imperfections in the skin.
posted by edd at 5:34 AM on June 18, 2007


Averaged faces will be more symmetric.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:45 AM on June 18, 2007


Mixing male faces and female faces makes for some fine faces indeed.

This is fun and interesting!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 AM on June 18, 2007


We need a machine like this in real life: you pick 4-5 so-so girls, put them in a blender and it spits out one average but pretty girl.
posted by darkripper at 5:52 AM on June 18, 2007


I apologize for wrecking the grading curve.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 AM on June 18, 2007


I strongly recommend the papers on the site too. Here is an interesting analysis of symmetry and why we find it attractive. As to whether it's 'just' averaging, the answer appears to be no - there is some positive quality of attractiveness too, which has something to do with shape.
posted by grahamwell at 5:54 AM on June 18, 2007


you pick 4-5 so-so girls, put them in a blender and it spits out one average but pretty girl.

better yet: pick up the 'raw material' women from california, and you can make yourself an uncanny valley girl.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 AM on June 18, 2007 [13 favorites]


I prefer the silence of the lambs method.
posted by mattoxic at 6:02 AM on June 18, 2007


the permanent gallery of faces looks like the factory line where our alien overlords no doubt weed out seconds from their android production run before secretly seeding the quality-endorsed models amongst the normal human population: "fine, fine, fine, argh! - mutant baby crossed with a pig!, fine, fine..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:03 AM on June 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'd like to know what the assumptions are behind the blending process, but I can't get that link to work (maybe I'm just being rubbish, but in a hurry as I shouldn't be wasting time here in the first place). Seems to me that there is potential for huge subjectivity in what is considered a 'blend' of two or more faces, even when that process has been mechanised. Wouldn't it be possible to construct a model that produced faces where a demonstrably equal amount of averaging had taken place, but which were all pig ugly?

Maybe someone who understands the maths better could throw a few more facts into the process of averaging we call metafilter.

Cheers.
posted by howfar at 6:06 AM on June 18, 2007


Darkripper: When i put 4-5 girls in a blender, I just get a really gross smoothie.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:16 AM on June 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


louche mustachio: at least they stop talking back to you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:21 AM on June 18, 2007


The "Make-a-Baby" demo was not as fun as I thought it would be.
posted by chillmost at 6:31 AM on June 18, 2007


teledildonics. the greatest beatup & letdown in intarwebs history.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:34 AM on June 18, 2007


Wouldn't it be possible to construct a model that produced faces where a demonstrably equal amount of averaging had taken place, but which were all pig ugly?

Apparently not. The averaging process seems pretty uncontroversial. Have a look here.
posted by grahamwell at 6:39 AM on June 18, 2007


The "Make-a-Baby" demo was not as fun as I thought it would be.

I think you must be doing it wrong.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


you pick 4-5 so-so girls, put them in a blender and it spits out one average but pretty girl.

Kinda like a Horadric Cube?
posted by samsara at 6:46 AM on June 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


Here's a fun one: pick a woman with very feminine features and mix her with a guy who has facial hair.
posted by felix betachat at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2007


Here's a fun one: pick a woman with very feminine features and mix her with a guy who has facial hair.

I tried that too! It looks like that guy, you know that guy, that drove the motorscooter and had a moustach consisting of maybe 3 wispy hairs at your middle school. Though he was your hero in 7th grade, you now try to avoid him recognizing you when you buy beer from him down at the Pump-n-Go.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:34 AM on June 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


It looks like that guy, you know that guy, that drove the motorscooter and had a moustach consisting of maybe 3 wispy hairs at your middle school.

Hmm. I was thinking FTM tranny. You must have gone to an interesting middle school.
posted by felix betachat at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2007


pick a woman with very feminine features and mix her with a guy who has facial hair

Orlando Bloom is a transvestite store clerk?
posted by Firas at 7:50 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is cool. You only need four or so people to get a fairly average face that is still pretty unique. I'm going to make drawings of these people, I tell you! A gallery of distinguishable yet unsettlingly attractive looking people.
posted by Mister Cheese at 8:29 AM on June 18, 2007


Noooo, I made one and it was my own face staring back at meeee!!!
posted by Mister Cheese at 8:44 AM on June 18, 2007


robot made out of meat has it, above. This is about symmetry, which has been long linked with attractiveness.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:06 AM on June 18, 2007


This thing is pretty cool and only reinforces something my wife and I have long noted. She works in an adoption agency and most (if not all) of the children placed through the agency come from mixed-race couples. Based on the looks of the children, the future is going to be very beautiful, and captivating.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:08 AM on June 18, 2007


Metafilter: Hmm. I was thinking FTM tranny.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2007


"Hapa" is slang for a mixed-race Asian ("hapa this, hapa that"). See link for photos of celebrities (I'm guessing SFW, but only checked a few) and regular people (headshots).

(@ Thorzdad: mixed-race placement seems to be a higher proportion than the general population... if that's right, is it due to more children being placed, or a higher proportion of children being adopted?)
posted by kurumi at 9:46 AM on June 18, 2007


Kinda like a Horadric Cube?

It won't transmute if you just insert girls, you need Wirt's Leg in there too.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: my father was of the same opinion, that mixed-race children were gorgeous, and that eventually we'd all be brown and hot, hot, hot.
posted by Malor at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2007


I have seen the future and it is Brazil. Oh brave new world that has such people in it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


you need Wirt's Leg in there too
I thought you were trying to avoid the Cow Level.
posted by forrest at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the transforms they apply to the "normal" faces to conform them to the proportions used in the experiments universally end up making them look like smashed crabs.

Other than the "average" faces, there are really only one or two in any of that lot that look even vaguely attractive -- the rest all fall solidly into the uncanny valley for me.

Oh, and UbuRoivas: you owe me a new keyboard. Uncanny valley girl indeed ...
posted by 5MeoCMP at 4:16 PM on June 18, 2007


I have seen the future and it is Brazil. Oh brave new world that has such people in it.

I heard recently that in the English census, a significant & growing proportion of people are unable to answer the 'race' question, as they are of mixed descent. I forget the exact proportion, but it might have been around one in five or six, maybe one in twelve.

Whether the English experience matches the Brazilian one (largely Hispanic/Caucasian, Negro & American Indian) remains to be seen. Anecdotally, one of the most attractive people I've ever met was Portuguese-Chinese-Slovakian. Australia's pretty mixed-up like that.

Dragging the thread downwards a bit, I can't help but wonder whether the same averaging effect applies to bodies in general, or to specific body parts (take your pick). I'm flagging this as a potential area for future research.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:32 PM on June 18, 2007


I wonder how this relates to normos.
posted by Many bubbles at 7:06 PM on June 18, 2007


Can't add to the argument, but it sure is fun to upload images and cross my face with Harvey Keitel's. Man, I look mean.
posted by eegphalanges at 8:26 PM on June 18, 2007


I wonder how this relates to normos.

Pure pornormography.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:58 PM on June 18, 2007


I wish they'd spend more time on the 'anti-face' area of their research, where you take a face and show what it's exact opposite might look like. Full lips where the subject's lips were thin. Dark hair where the subject's hair was light. Small nostrils instead of large, etc.

Averaging causes the end result to look drab and boring. Attractive, but not necessarily snoggable.

"Not necessarily beautiful, but mutated!"
posted by ZachsMind at 10:36 PM on June 18, 2007


It seems like the attractiveness of the "averaging" process has a lot to do with degree to which the presentation of the face coincides with attractiveness in photographic representation. That is, the originals often have harsh light, hard lines and the unevenness of skin tone that is the unattractive result of bad photography. The average faces look like the kinds of photos that we see in magazines: skin tones are evened out, the background is softer, the lines around the features are sharp and clear.

If you ran the original pictures through the same sort of photoshopping effects without "averaging" them, I bet we'd respond to most of them in similar ways: we'd click on "unattractive" photos and find them transformed into "attractive" ones. I'm not sure that this kind of research actually tells us much about the realities of human attraction.
posted by carmen at 7:45 AM on June 19, 2007


I agree with carmen. Most of the originals look like mugshots.
posted by RussHy at 8:06 AM on June 19, 2007


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