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Are Composite Faces More Attractive Than Real Faces?

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Caroline Kim

on 31 March 2014

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Transcript of Are Composite Faces More Attractive Than Real Faces?

% of Males vs. Females
Materials & Procedures
Data Analysis
Experimental Design
Materials List

- Experiment volunteers (5 males, 5 females from G8)
- Notebook that has 30 pieces of paper
- Word processing software (Pages.)
- Computer
- Internet Access
- Printer
- 40 sheets of A4 paper
- 8 sheets of black construction paper
- Scissors
- Glue
- Stapler

2014 Virtual Science Fair
8C Carrie Kim
Are composite faces more attractive than real faces?
The Truth Behind Real Beauty
Hypothesis & Variables
Starting the Science Fair
The Creation of a Composite Face
If a set of individual faces are compared to a composite face which is generated based on the combined facial features of the real faces, then the perceived attractiveness of the composite faces would generally be higher because the small and non-symmetrical components of a face mostly disappear while averaging the input faces, also known as the averageness effect, as attractive faces tend to indicate the average traits of population.

Independent Variable:
- Types of a face (individual face, composite face)
Dependent Variable:
- Perceived Attractiveness of faces that are ranked by 20 subjects from both sexes from an age group of year 6 to 8
Control Variables:
1. Faces that are being shown to each subject.
2. Number of faces per each type of a face.
3. Number of individual component faces used for generating a composite face.
4. Individual component faces used for generating a composite face.
5. Size and pixel of the printed sets of faces.
6. Size and shape of the oval frames in the printed sets of faces.
7. Time given per each subject to complete the experiment.
8. Order of the faces in each printed set.

Are Composite Faces More Attractive Than Real Faces?
Background Information
[1] Combine these two individual faces using a digital software: physical imperfections such as asymmetries and crooked facial features disappear [2] Both of the faces are combined into one with perfect symmetry and averaged features
Francis Galton overlaid multiple images of faces onto a single photo, thus making an individual face resemble different aspects of the final product of a composite face. The result was an “average” face that led to a surprising discovery: composite image was way more attractive than the component faces. This phenomenon is now known as averageness effect, in which attractive faces contain the average traits of the population.

Attractiveness tends to be connected to how smooth and conveniently an individual can process and analyze the features of a face. Symmetry is one aspect of faces that has been hotly discussed in relation to attractiveness. Normally, the perfectly symmetric versions of a set of typical faces are displayed along with the original individual faces which are relatively asymmetric compared to the graphically-manufactured composites. People generally prefer the composites, which prove that symmetry is a major visual component for determining the attractiveness of a face.

The Perceptual Bias Theory
The Perceptual Bias view of symmetry preferences believes that our visual system is designed to process symmetric stimuli more easily than the asymmetric stimuli.
“A stimulus becomes attractive if it falls into the average of what you’ve seen and is therefore simple for your brain to process,”
The time it took for a person to recognize an object
Preferences for symmetric faces = symmetric objects
People prefer...
symmetric pieces of abstract art & sculpture > asymmetrical versions
Experiment by Piotr Winkielman
Symmetry is more attractive due to its "familiarity"
Composite faces: more convenient for the brain to process, higher awareness
Showed that an arbitrary pattern can be likable by preparing the mind to recognize it quickly
Prepared each test subject's brain to get used to a particular prototype of abstract designs
Rated variations of the same pattern
Participants categorized patterns more quickly & rated them as more favorable when the patterns were closer to their prototypes
The perceptive beauty of an object
“The mental mechanism appears to be extremely simple: facilitate processing of certain objects and they ring a louder bell. This parsimonious explanation accounts for cultural differences in beauty-and historical differences in beauty as well-because beauty basically depends on what you’ve been exposed to and what is therefore easy on your mind.”
The Evolutionary Advantage Theory
Averageness is a sign of health and fitness, which attracts the opposite sex for successful reproduction
Weirdly bulging eyes may be a sign of unhealthiness -> decreases the rate of attractiveness for the possible mating partners
Does not prove the cases in which inanimate objects or animals of other species are considered attractive amongst others, because they have no mating potential
Fails to accurately explain Winkielman’s experiment, in which subjects held no sexual attraction to the geometric patterns

Symmetry in Animals

Most animals have bilateral symmetry, which means that they can be split into two matching halves, if they are evenly divided down a center line.
To Darwin, the tail seemed unnecessary and didn’t make evolutionary sense since it didn’t fit his “survival of the fittest” theory
Invented the theory of sexual selection, which proposes that animals develop certain features to increase their chances of mating
A variety of adaptations to attract the maters, including bright colors, a large size, and symmetry in their body shape and in the repeated patterns of their feathers
Outermost tail feathers of barn swallows Hirundo rustica
Represent the quality of males, because individuals with the longest tails have the lowest degree of fluctuating asymmetry (deviations from the symmetrical tail trait)
When males with varying degrees of symmetrical tails were tested without any altered aerodynamic properties of birds (the tips of outermost tail feathers were painted with white or black correction fluid), it took a longer pre-mating period for asymmetrical males to acquire a mate than for symmetrical males

Symmetric faces are attractive because symmetry indicates the health of an individual: the “perfect” genes are designed to develop symmetrically, but abnormal factors such as diseases and infections during physical development cause imperfections such as asymmetries.

This leads to proposing that individuals with strong immune systems who are able to withstand such unhealthy circumstances are successful in developing symmetrical faces, and thus are more attractive.

Evolutionary Advantage vs. Perceptual Bias
In 2003, Anthony C. Little and Benedict C. Jones carried out an experiment which investigated why people prefer symmetrical faces, testing both hypotheses from the evolutionary advantage theory and the perceptual bias theory. Previous studies suggested that symmetry had a bigger effect on the attractiveness of opposite-sex faces than own-sex faces. Little and Jones inverted the facial images (turned them upside-down) in order to reduce the convenience in which the faces can be processed and be considered as “humans”.
The inverted faces are considered more like objects rather than actual faces without altering the symmetrical quality of the facial features. This basically means that opposite-sex upright faces are “mate choice relevant stimuli” (because they would easily be perceived as potential mates) while the inverted faces will more like be treated as objects, under the condition that both inverted and upright faces are symmetric. Under the evolutionary advantage view, preferences for symmetric faces will be weaker when the faces are inverted, but under the perceptual bias perspective this upside-down effect will not influence on the subjects’ perceived attractiveness because symmetry should be appealing to any type of visual stimulus.
When Little and Jones tested whether upside-down faces weaken the strength of symmetrical preferences, test subjects proved their prediction correct by judging the symmetrical faces more attractive when they were shown the right way up, but not when they were inverted. In short, the findings of Little and Jones support the Evolutionary Advantage Theory, as the subjects have responded to symmetric faces that fell into the category of “mate choice relevant stimuli”.

1. Go to the Face Research website at www.faceresearch.org/demos/average.
2. Click on an individual face of a female which should have a highlighted yellow square around it.
3. Click the “View Average” button located in the left corner, in which a larger picture of the individual selected face will appear on screen.
4. Screenshot the image using command+shift+4.
5. Save the image in an electronic folder on a computer in order for the user to easily organize and locate the image.
6. Import the image from the folder into a word processing software. (When using Pages, set the paper setting to “landscape”)
7. Repeat the steps 1-6 with two more individual images of the females; this should result three different female images
8. Import the images from step 7 and position them next to each other on a single page in the word processor document.
9. Click on all three of the faces from step 11 in the Face Research website (www.faceresearch.org/demos/average) in which all of the pictures should be highlighted in yellow.
10. Click “View Average”.
11. Right-click on the composite face that is generated by the Face Research software.
12. Select “Save Image As”.
13. Save the image in an electronic folder on a computer in order for the user to easily organize and locate the image.
14. Import the image into the same word processor page where the three individual faces from step are on.
15. Label the individual faces 1A, 1B, 1C, and the composite face “1 average” on the page by typing the labels underneath each image.
16. Repeat the steps 1-15 to make three more composite faces of the same sex. (Each composite face should be made from three individual faces that are different from any of the faces used previously.)
17. Insert the three newly-created composite faces and the three individual component faces per each composite into new pages in the same word processing document.
18. Label the second set of individual faces used for creating the second composite face 2A, 2B, 2C, and the composite 2 average.
19. Label the third set of individual faces used for creating the third composite face 3A, 3B, 3C, and the composite 3 average.
20. Label the fourth set of individual faces used for creating the fourth composite face 4A, 4B, 4C, and the composite 4 average.
21. Open a new word processing document which will be printed out for test subjects.
22. For each set of faces, make one new page with just one of the individual component faces as well as the composite face. (The total should be four pages; an individual composite face from each of the four sets, accompanied by one of the three individual component faces per each of the four sets that generated the composite face.)
23. Label each page Page 1 for set 1, Page 2 for set 2, Page 3 for set 3, and Page 4 for set 4 by typing the text at the top of the page.
24. Label the two pictures on each page A and B.
25. Mix up the order of A and B so that the composite is not always A or B.
26. Print out the four pages of images.
27. Use the scissors, glue and a sheet of black construction paper for each page to create oval frames to hide the “halos”.
28. The composite faces have a faint “halo” where the hair from the individual faces have been digitally combined. This part of the composite has to be de-emphasized, 29. which can be done by adding frames to just show the facial features.
30. Arrange the frames over the printed sets of images thus the frames cover the halo on the composites, revealing on their facial features. (Using the method of having the test subjects answer on the spot rather than handing out each copy for every volunteer saves the amount of pages to print.)
31. Staple the sets of pages together, in order, from page 1-page 4.
32. Prepare 30 pieces of paper from the notebook for each test subject during the experiment.
33. Assemble a group of 5 female volunteers.
34. Hand out a paper and a copy of the four sets of female images for each test subject at a time.
35. Inform the following instructions in each paper;
1. Look at each of the four pages, numbered 1 to 4.
2. Each page has two faces. The faces are labeled A or B.
3. Write down on the given paper Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4.
4. Next to the page number, write down the letter of the face that is more attractive, in your opinion.
5. Give the list with your answers to me when you are finished.
6. Your final list of answers should list either A or B for pages 1-4.
7. Please provide your answers within 2 minutes.
36. Collect the 5 pieces of paper that were given to the 5 female volunteers after 10 min.
37. Repeat the steps 32-36 for 5 male volunteers with a copy of the four sets of female images.
38. Record observations in order to analyze test data.
Experiment Procedures
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