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10 December 2016
Which Facial Features are Attractive
For the experiment I chose to partake in, Julia Carlota Batres and Professor David I. Perrett from the University of St. Andrews put me through several stages of questions, followed by hands-on editing of the human face in an effort to decipher which facial features I, or anyone involved in the study found more attractive. The test took no more than 15 minutes, with relatively easy questions surrounding the main experiment, which I was very anxious to try attempt. At first, I answered a few simple questions regarding my information. Some questions were oddly specific (I was asked if I was in a relationship, sexual preference, my race, etc.), so I wondered if this by any chance changed the way I was questioned. I was then asked to put a number, 1 through 5; 1 meaning not at all and 5 being frequently: how often have I felt a specific emotion in the past couple of weeks. Emotions such as excited, scared, happy, lazy, and fearful were among the emotions listed. As I filled out the questionnaire, I couldn't help but wonder why a study based on facial preference was asking me questions based on my feelings; but I continued on. The next part of the test was the fun part. I was asked to perform the task of editing the faces of 20 different women until I thought they were most attractive. As I slid the mouse from left to right, the anonymous woman's face would distort. Scroll to the left and the woman's face cleared up of any skin condition, her neck was much skinnier and any slight eye bags would disappear. Slide it back to the right and the woman would age drastically, with heavy eye bags and more masculine facial structures such as a protruding supraorbital ridge, broader shoulders, and more defined trapezius muscles. I scrolled and clicked through the 20 different transforming images assuming I was done; not quite yet. The final part of the test consisted of 30 words with missing letters (ex. R_D_O), and I was tasked to complete the first word that came to mind that successfully filled in the blanks. Again, I was rather confused by the questions at hand.
Upon searching up the names of Batres and Prof. Perrett, I came across an article published by Perrett describing the findings of this experiment. The article, published by the journal Ethology, is a comprehensive article describing patterns and discrepancies based on the results of those who voluntarily took the test online and studies on students at an army training camp. It very quickly started to make sense why I was asked personal questions regarding my information and recent emotions. It wasn't very difficult to understand that the personal questions were intended to compare and contrast people with similar answers. For example, I was instantly paired with heterosexual males, and I was then grouped with people who were feeling similar emotions as I was to find connections between emotion, environment, and the influence one's surroundings has on facial preference. This study was ultimately trying to prove that personal preference varies based on surroundings. This theory, however, is a major debate with many different theories on what truly influences facial preferences. Does evolutionary preference lose influence with societal standards? Are societal standards too vague of a subject to have such direct influence on facial preference? Through their study, Batres and Perrett have theorized that this question has more to do with immediate environmental and emotional conditions. The results proved that although environmental and emotional conditions do in fact influence facial preference, it was also evident the evolutionary preferences were prominent in selecting facial preferences under stress. This ended up narrowing down societal influence to a much more exact reason.
At the culmination of the study, Professor Perrett and Batres came to the conclusion that the students at the training camp preferred more feminine faces for males, hinting that even before the training, students were inclined to pick more trustworthy features (feminine features) for men. An even more precise result was that males in harsher environments showed tendencies of choosing faces that appeared to
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