Tags: Health Topics | asymmetry | positive image | attractive | perception | visual

Positive Image Is About Showing Less to Make You More Attractive

first impressions blurred


By Wednesday, 06 January 2021 03:26 PM Current | Bio | Archive

"You need glasses,'' we joke when someone compliments us on how great we look. Perhaps our quick humor is more accurate than we think. For all of the time and effort people spend attempting to (literally) put their best face forward, according to research, for the perceiver, less is more.

Why Less Is More

Javid Sadr and Lauren Krowicki, as discussed in a Vision Research article, ''Face Perception Loves a Challenge,'' (from 2019) found that being presented with less information sparks more attraction.

In a series of three experiments in which participants were tasked with ranking faces in order of attractiveness, they found a ''consistent and powerful effect'' of decreased visual input resulting in enhanced perception of attractiveness. Specifically, they found that as images of faces are either blurred, reduced in contrast, or half-obscured, the facial attractiveness, in contrast to faces which were less degraded, was greatly enhanced.

Blurred Can Be Beautiful

Most people who use social media or virtual communication platforms have probably noticed the various filter options currently available. Savvy platform developers know that many users, desiring to appear their best, often want to soften their look.

Sure enough, Sadr and Krowicki (ibid.) found that blurring faces increased perceived attractiveness all the way to the maximum level of blur participants could view while still able to make reliable judgments of attractiveness.

Far beyond what they recognize as the common intuition that a little blur hides wrinkles or other imperfections, they found the blurring-attractiveness effect continues to grow almost up to the point where known faces can become unrecognizable.

The Attraction of Asymmetry

Again debunking the belief that perfect is beautiful, regarding the supposed attraction of facial symmetry, Sadr and Krowicki (supra) found instead that half-occluded faces with no symmetry whatsoever were perceived as more attractive. In other words, seeing only one half of a face was much better than seeing the whole face.

Interestingly, many posters on social media sites already, and perhaps unintentionally, benefit from such findings by using profile views — a trend that has gained popularity over the last several years. Sadr and Krowicki (supra) themselves add some humor to the online posting discussion, noting ''one might colourfully imagine that, with the aid of a plausible occluder or by simply staying half out of the shot, Batman’s hemi-disfigured friend/enemy Two-Face would do very well to place a half 'selfie' portrait on a Gotham Singles website.''

The Other Side of the Fence: Is the Grass Greener, or Grainier?

How does this research impact the real social world? Sadr and Krowicki (supra) note that their findings could explain the phenomenon experienced by some individuals who when out on a date, find themselves less interested in their dining companion than with alternate prospects they can see in the distance, or are able to view (hopefully after dinner) on their tiny smartphone screens. This demonstrates the tendency to overestimate a specially distant person's attractiveness, which is less ambiguous at closer range, a phenomenon they note rarely happens in reverse order.

How often do people take advantage of visual perception research in the contemporary world? Sadr and Krowicki (supra) wonder whether the less-is-more phenomenon might explain the popularity of traditions and routines including the use of a wedding veil obscuring the face of the bride, the ''elaborate coquettish'' use of decorative, face-obscuring fans, and partially obscuring one’s face with cascading long hair.

Less Information Can Be Intriguing 

Sadr and Krowicki (supra) note that what they term the ''partial information effect'' appears to elicit a ''curious and somewhat charming bias'' in the face of uncertainty and indeed even obscurity, which inspires us ''to imagine the best.'' Nice to hear about people putting a positive spin on ambiguous information, instead of assuming the worst.

Obviously, the healthiest interpersonal relationships develop and thrive through a combination of attraction, respect and compatibility, but in terms of first impressions, there appears to be some corroboration for the timeless observation that in many cases, less is more.

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include these major news outlets: CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of ''Red Flags'' (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of The New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, participates as a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

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The healthiest interpersonal relationships develop and thrive through a combination of attraction, respect and compatibility, but in terms of first impressions, there appears to be some corroboration for the timeless observation that in many cases, less is more.
asymmetry, positive image, attractive, perception, visual
Wednesday, 06 January 2021 03:26 PM
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