You don't trust unpopular people

True beauty comes from within. However, your brain doesn't care. The latest research has revealed that evolution has taught us to dislike ugly faces and that unrealistic ideals of beauty…

True beauty comes from within. However, your brain doesn’t care. The latest research has revealed that evolution has taught us to dislike ugly faces and that unrealistic ideals of beauty are not just society’s inventions.

His face was disfigured. Deep scars ran across and lengthwise, the shiny, burned skin of his face. Underneath the crooked nose, the mouth opened in a big smile and the crooked, yellow teeth were revealed.

His name was Freddy Krueger, but he was the main character in the horror film “Nightmare on Álmstræti”.

We only need to look at him once to realize that this is not a good man. We judge him by his looks alone.

The creators behind the movie Nightmare on Álmstræti, from 1984, did their best to make the audience not only think Freddy was evil, but also ugly.

The explanation is that the brain takes a shortcut. He mixes physical and spiritual beauty and processes the information in one and the same brain center. If the exterior is ugly, the interior must be as well.


This does not only apply to fictional characters on the big screen. Our brain plays the same game every day with people we see around us. As a result, we tend to think of nice people as intelligent and talented, while the unattractive ones are seen as untrustworthy.


Now scientists want to find out if the brain does this just to save time or if evolution has forced us to dislike ugliness.


In search of an answer to this question, a team of American scientists have found the recipe for the perfect face, and their counterparts in Australia have found out what message a blank face actually sends to the world.


Beauty is objective

Beauty is a multifaceted concept. A person can be beautiful. The same applies to flowers, compositions or the inner person.


What do these three have in common? Two researchers in the field of neuroaesthetics, Tomohiro Ishizu and Semir Zeki, have found only one answer to the question: Beauty always activates the same brain centers.


The researchers scanned the brains of 21 participants in one experiment while the latter looked at photographs and listened to different pieces of music. The results revealed that both the beautiful pictures and the beautiful music activated an area of the brain called the medial cingulate cortex, but the activity there increased as the effect was more beautiful.


Chinese researchers have similarly shown that ugliness is linked to a specific area of the brain that processes unattractive faces and sloppy morals.

However, the definition of beauty is not only found in our minds, but is also a predetermined constant. At least that is the opinion of renowned quantum physicist and scientist David Deutsch at the University of Oxford in England.


If you can tell, David finds beauty quite independent of our subjective thoughts. It is as objective an aspect of the universe as the laws of physics and mathematics.


This Deutsch used flowers to prove his point. They have evolved to attract insects and in the same way the insects have evolved to attract the flowers. Darwin’s theory of natural selection explains the cooperation between flowers and insects in a simple way, but it does not explain why people are fascinated by the appearance of flowers.


Deutsch says the explanation lies in the fact that flowers are objectively beautiful. They are beautiful, regardless of who looks at them, and the same story can be told about many other beautiful things.


The theory attracted attention, and various experiments indicate that it even has some reason to support it. These experiments indicate that all people basically agree on what is beautiful and what is not.


Scientists find the perfect face

In general, we all have the same taste for what we think is beautiful, and this unanimity is not only rooted in the fact that we are influenced by a common culture. Various studies support the theory that we develop this sense of beauty immediately at birth.


American experiments led by developmental psychologist Judith Langlois revealed that babies as young as two months of age have the same opinion as adults about which faces are beautiful and which are ugly. The experiment showed, of course, that the infants looked longer at the beautiful faces than at the unattractive ones.

Experiments have revealed that certain facial features are considered particularly beautiful, and Israeli scientists have managed to prepare a program based on that knowledge that makes faces in photos more beautiful.

As a result, scientists around the world are trying to find the features of a face that everyone seems to find beautiful.

They found what they were looking for. One of the most important properties lies in symmetry. Repeated experiments have shown, conclusively, that we are generally attracted to faces that are the same on the right as on the left. However, this is by no means universal.

A face that is perfectly symmetrical can appear unflattering and vice versa. One experiment involving adults as well as 4-15 month old infants suggested that we can spot these exceptions at any age.

The explanation is undoubtedly that the proportions of faces matter.

Researchers at the University of California in the United States asked participants in one experiment to evaluate a computerized female face with various proportions. The experiment revealed that the most attractive face was a face where the vertical distance from the center of the eye down to the mouth was about 36% of the height of the face, and the horizontal distance from the center of one eye to the center of the other was about 46% of the width of the face.

The researchers believe that these findings may also explain why a new haircut can change how beautiful a face appears to be. The hairline affects the way we perceive the height and width of faces and, as a result, also the proportions.

Perfect face

We’re attracted to symmetrical faces with certain proportions, and now researchers at the University of California think they know why.

The perfect distances that the researchers identified between the eyes and the mouth, and also from one eye to the other, correspond almost perfectly to the distances that the researchers identified when they averaged all 40 different faces.

The facial features that were considered the most beautiful were also the ones that came closest to the average.

Averageness is the key to understanding our taste in faces.

These results are also supported by experiments conducted by developmental psychologist Judith Langlois. She used a computer program to fuse several faces together into a so-called average face. The participants in her experiment were very impressed with this particular face.


Some scientists are of the opinion that proportion determines exactly with which eyes we look at faces. They believe that large deviations from the average can be a sign of harmful mutations or poor health, and as a result, evolution has encouraged us to prefer the average.


This reasoning is supported, among other things , by studies that indicate that malnutrition or disease early in life may affect the development of the face, with the result that it will not be symmetrical.


An irregular face can also be a sign of poor genetics. This context has buried itself deep in our brains, even if we are not aware of it.


An appetite protects us against disease

Brain scans have shown that our central cingulate cortex is activated when we visualize something beautiful, and it has previously been shown that this brain area is part of the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.


In other words, a beautiful face unleashes pleasure in the brain.


Ugliness, on the other hand, causes a completely different feeling.

In one experiment conducted in 2020, Australian researchers had participants look at pictures of people, animals and buildings. Some of the images were judged to be ugly and these same images evoked disgust in the participants.


The scientists also took unbiased pictures and added on the points that showed signs of disease. Those pictures were considered ugly and caused disgust.


If the Australian researchers are to be believed, the results revealed that our aversion to ugliness is actually a defense against disease. We associate ugliness with disease and avoid ugly people and ugly animals in order to protect ourselves.


The brain’s discrimination between attractive and non-attractive faces can have far-reaching consequences. Experiments have revealed, among other things, that unfree people have a harder time gaining the trust of children than those who are considered nice.


Research has similarly shown that nice people get higher wages than unfriendly people, and they are also considered to be more intelligent, talented and credible.


We give power to the media

Movies, TV and commercials are often shamed for portraying unrealistic beauty ideals that make many of us feel inadequate when it comes to our looks.


If, on the other hand, many images of beauty are almost in our blood, the role of the media suddenly becomes unclear.


Whatever we think about this, many studies indicate that the media can affect our self-esteem, but to varying degrees.


In an American study, researchers were able to show that girls between the ages of 8-11 are much more influenced by the media than boys of the same age, and that this can have the effect of making them more dissatisfied with their bodies.

Those who believe that the media influences how they view their bodies are being influenced by these same media.

Another American study compared heterosexual American men with gay men. Both groups placed equal emphasis on their appearance, but the homosexuals were generally more dissatisfied with their bodies than the others.

The explanation seems to be that gay men considered the media to be more influential than heterosexual men, despite the fact that neither group watched more television and movies than the other.

Those who believe that the media influences how they view their bodies are being influenced by these same media.

Dissatisfaction with one’s own body can in some cases go to extremes. This happens to people who suffer from body perception disorder, a mental illness that causes the patient to focus on details in their appearance to such an extent that their self-esteem is compromised .

Many psychologists believe that the singer Michael Jackson suffered from a body perception disorder that forced him to undergo countless plastic surgeries.

Plastic surgery may seem like the perfect solution for those who suffer from this disorder, but that is not the case . Soon after the operation, the patient will again be dissatisfied with the appearance.

Instead, the best treatment involves behavioral therapy, perhaps combined with medication that increases the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin between the brain cells.

Dogs make you beautiful

Our brains don’t like unpleasant people – regardless of whether it’s the disfigured Freddy Krueger from the movie A Nightmare on Álmstræti or people who cross our path on a normal day.

Fortunately, we don’t judge people by their looks alone. Not only do people’s inner person and appearance make us more positive about them, but these factors can change our opinion of other people’s appearance and lead us to believe that the person in question is attractive.

In an experiment conducted in Switzerland, it was found that the participants found smiling faces more attractive than non-smiling faces and that smiles can enhance faces that might otherwise be considered blank.

Friendly personalities also compliment people’s looks. Canadian researchers, for example, were able to change their participants’ opinion of several portraits by informing them that the subject had either done something good or had done something wrong. Faces that could be associated with good deeds were thought to have smaller noses, fuller lips and less pale skin.

Kindness to animals also had good results. An Israeli experiment found that women were more attracted to men if the phrase “he has a dog” was added to the description of the man. According to an American study , owning a cat did not weigh as much.

Even the fictional character Freddy Krueger could have become the most respectable, if only he had made some small changes in his life, showed more kindness and got a dog.

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