Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Hey, Give me another quarter of a second!
According to psychologists at Princeton University, we judge the character of a new face in one-tenth of a second.
Specifically, 200 college students who viewed photographs decided whether the person imaged was attractive and trustworthy in less time than it takes to sneeze.
Given more time to think, the decisions only became firmer.
Other scientists have determined that in cultures around the world, what is considered most attractive is an average of the population features. That is, a nose too long or too short was not ideal, but the nose in the middle was.
So, what the Princeton students were deciding in a split second was how closely the faces were to our idea of beauty. And our idea of beauty is essentially the least extraordinary.
Beauty and truth, as John Keats poetically pointed out, are closely entwined, making it easy to see why attractive people seem more trustworthy.
Also, being able to decide instantly whether a person is likely to be friend or foe is a clear advantage in survival and mating.
However interesting this research is, it ignores what makes humans human: language. We may find someone attractive until she starts to talk. Likewise, someone may seem unattractive, but he might have a great sense of humor (which women claim to find attractive.)
If you look in a mirror, what do you think?