Science can predict which selfies we’ll like best

We’d always thought that, despite this photo app-heavy era, it’s possible to make real connections online that aren’t defined by how people look. Turns out, we’re idealistic fools and human beings are depressingly superficial.

Psychologists from the University of York conducted a new study to find out whether they could predict how their subjects would judge others, based on a varied sample of photos gathered from the internet. In 58% of cases, they were right.

They analysed 1000 faces, including selfies and avatars, and graphed their properties on axes relating to everything from head tilt to jaw gradient to nose flare, and then asked their study participants to rate the people in the photos according to factors such as how approachable and attractive they seemed.

The researchers were then able to use this info to create cartoon avatars which they showed to a further set of subjects, who reacted as the psychologists had expected. This suggests that what we think of as an intuitive feeling about someone is likely to be based on a subconscious assessment of their facial dimensions.

Although they haven’t released the specific face geometry that creates the most favourable impression, this could have huge implications, allowing everyone from casting directors to animators to authors with descriptive prowess to give their characters mass appeal. It also means that online daters or anyone who wants people on the internet to love them will be able to choose the pics that the biggest number of people will respond to.

But is that necessarily a good thing? First impressions can’t always be relied on, and to some extent, like beauty ideals, are culturally imposed. This could make people less likely to accentuate their individuality, which would be a shame. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to miss out on your new bestie or the love of your life just because they were having a bad nose flare day.

Image via Susanne Nilsson’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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