Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Mind" -> What Is Beauty?

Pierre Tourigny has created an updated answer to the classic question of "what is beauty" by using pop culture and modern software. The picture to the right is a ranking of pictures of women of beauty. The closer to 10, the more beautiful they are.

Paul pulls his inspiration from the website "Hot or Not." This website panders, and I mean panders, to the fears and worries inside all of us.

The premise is simple for ranking people. Go to the website, and see a photo. Click on a grading scale from 1 to 10. See another photo, then grade from 1 to 10. The key to the website, at least for me, is that you get to see the average composite score of the person after you grade them. You can select men or women. You can even select both.

To get rank, all you do is get a username. Upload a photo. Wait to be approved, and then you watch the results roll in. So, if you look at Pierre's photographs, you will see what these women should have ranked if they were upload to HotorNot. However, if you look at the photos you will see that they mysteriously all look very, very similar.

Why is that?

Paul tells his story below:

These women do not exist. They each are a composite of about 30 faces that I created to find out the current standard of good looks on the Internet.

On the popular Hot or Not web site, people rate others’ attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. An average score based on hundreds or even thousands of individual ratings takes only a few days to emerge.

I collected some photos from the site, sorted them by rank and used SquirlzMorph to create multi-morph composites from them. Unlike projects like Face of Tomorrow or Beauty Check where the subjects are posed for the purpose, the portraits are blurry because the source images are low resolution with differences in posture, hair styles, glasses, etc, so that I could use only 36 control points for the morphs.

What did I conclude about good looks from these virtual faces? First, morphs tend to be prettier than their sources because face asymmetries and skin blemishes average out. However, the low score images show that fat is not attractive. The high scores tend to have narrow faces. I will leave it to you to find more differences and to do a similar project for men.


None of these women actually exist, but they are composites and signals from what we think are beautiful as per internet ranking. The thing that I find very interesting is what drives our perception of beauty. Is this something that only the human soul can figure out?

Sadly, no.

Three Israeli researchers (Yael Eisenthal, Gideon Dror, and Eytan Ruppin) did a bit of work in 2005 to program an AI program to recognize beauty. They have the correlation up to .65, which is a good start. What drove the attractive face? They reported the following:

The features found most informative were those pertaining to size of the lower part of the face (jaw length, chin length), smoothness of skin, lip fullness, and eye size. These findings are all consistent with previous psychophysics studies.

The key is that certain faces are just "beautiful" and others are not. Certainly, as Pierre pointed out in his pictures, if you are heavy, then you are discriminated against. As it has been said, thin is in. And generally, the thinner faces are preferred by people over thicker faces.

Zaidel out of UCLA has done some interesting work here. Some people have said symmetry drove good looks. In research done on faces, he tried to get a sense of what the relationship was of beauty, health, and symmetry.

What did he find? If you have a symmetric face, you are considered healthy. If you are considered healthy, you are not necessarily considered beauty. It makes sense. Beauty goes beyond just health or not. Symmetry is not the answer.

After looking at the Hot or Not website, a couple things became apparent to me. These were as follows:

1. I tried to rank both women and men. I did a pretty good job of ranking the women compared to the "common" score given by most people. However, with the men, I was horrible.

2. Women who I thought were not that attractive sometimes got better scores than expected. It took me a while, but eventually I started to understand that if the woman was in a sultry pose and showing skin, they had a higher score. Beauty, it seems, it tied to your overall "come hither" signals in the photo.

If somebody has a beautiful face, I think this is beauty. However, on this website, which clearly is pushing toward the teenagers, beauty is sex. Sex is beauty. Our entire teenage culture is being wired to try and simulate the opposite sex more and more so that they can be considered beautiful. However, this is not beauty, this is sex.

This is turning into a universal message for our youth. We are silly to ignore it. If we believe the Bible, we are on the path of destruction if we teach our children to trust in their flesh and not in their God. We need to carefully consider what our youth are doing.

However, it is possible to just have the faced ranked, and many photos did show just the face.

One parting thought before we leave.

Just a few posts ago, I was advertising my IQ. To now test my beauty, I upload my 40+ year old face to the Hot or Not website. The picture off to the left shows the result from those seeing my mug.

I never thought that I was super attractive, nor did I think I was ugly. However, let's look at what the kids at Hot or Not ranked me. If you look at the graph, you see that I got what looks like a 1 (that was harsh) a bunch of 3's and a bunch of 5's.

Interestingly enough, I got a scatter of 8's. No 9 or 10's. So my "average" score from 1 to 10 is probably about a 5. However, this score made me in the top 30% of men posters to Hot or Not. Thus my ranking is a 7.3, which I'm assuming that is just rounding 73% score for attractiveness.

I'll keep it.

First, I wonder if I took off my shirt and posed that way, if I would have gotten a better score. We may need to not run that one, unless curiosity kills me. Secondly, the real question is if I would trade me meager looks, which places me in the "top 30%" of the attractive men, and trade it with my IQ, which places me in the top 12% of intelligence.

I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision. It was left up to the Lord and his will.

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