I look in the mirror and I constantly see a sexy beast. No matter what I seem to be wearing, or no matter what type of contortion I create with my face, I never seem to admit any degree of ugliness to myself. In other words, in my eyes, I seem to be the perfect human being with the best facial features and most flawless skin. What about you? Every moment that you catch a glimpse of yourself in a side shot or a mirror, what do you see? If you say that you see anything else other than perfection (or at least something close to it), I have the scientific proof to show that you are lying!
I could not help but wonder if I am actually attractive from other people’s perspective, or if I am simply ugly but cannot seem to recognize it. Thus, I made it my goal to use science to try to prove that I am, in fact, a sexy human being! But first, here were the questions that I aimed to answer through some research: Does the human species naturally create a false perception of themselves? Is there a correlation between the brain and how we perceive ourselves, and is there causation involved?
According to some research I stumbled upon, people are not as beautiful as they think they are! Psychological research performed by University of Chicago’s Nicholas Empley and University of Virginia’s Erin Whitchurch shows that people have a tendency to view themselves as much more attractive; both these scientists collected a group of random participants and printed out less attractive, more attractive, and original photos of them and instructed them to choose the picture that most closely related to how they looked physically. Naturally, the majority of the participants were inclined to choose the picture that molded them as more attractive. However, this phenomenon, recognized in the scientific community as “self-enhancement,” did not quite work the same way when it was on strangers, instead. As those same participants were given the same range of photos of strangers, they often chose the unmodified pictures.
Another similar phenomenon called above average effects seems to prove the same exact conclusion; people overestimate their own behaviors and actions, but when it comes to that of others, people underestimate them. A clear example is that more than 90 percent of people think they are better than the average driver, which is, in fact, a mathematical impossibility. One thing is clear about the human species: people remain unrealistically positive about themselves and their abilities.
In a second article that I read, the author describes the exact opposite of what the previous study suggested; instead, he explains that the mirror makes you look up to 20 percent more attractive because it adds symmetry to a face that most likely lacks it. This might also explain why people seem so horrified at pictures of themselves; unlike the mirror that adds that symmetry, a camera does no do that, and thus people have a tendency to hate pictures of themselves. In addition, something called the mere-exposure theory plays a role; this essentially states that people have a preference for objects that they see and come into contact with frequently, and since people see themselves often, they have an automatic and natural inclination when they look in the mirror.
After all this research, I could not help but wonder if how we view ourselves physically and psychologically is somehow connected to how others perceive us; so, I set out on another adventure for some answers. I came upon a concept called metaperception; it is here where I learned about the correlation between how we view ourselves and how other people view us. According to that article, what others think of us is directly contingent on what we think of ourselves and our self-concept. It was also very interesting to learn that how we interact with other people stems from how our mothers treated us as children; if one’s mothers was unresponsive, one tends to be distant and obnoxious, but if a mother was responsive and attentive, one is more confident and connects better with peers. As children, we look for approval in our mothers, but as we grow into adults, we look for satisfaction from other adults.
What Does This Mean?
The results from the second article basically define a correlation between how a person views himself and how he actually looks; without the mirror being used to add some form of symmetricalness to one’s face, one would not believe that he looks attractive at all. So, there is definitely a correlation; however, is there a causation? No, there is not. Someone looking at his reflection does not cause the distortion of his image. After all, we learned in class that just because there is a correlation between two variables does not mean that one must cause the other: correlation does not equal causation!
Conclusions from the first article:
- People seem to think they look better than they actually do based off an experiment with random participants and a couple of distorted photographs.
- Self enhancement and above average effects play a crucial role in this.
Conclusion from second article:
- Mirrors are liars! Don’t test them!
- You are actually uglier than what the mirror tells you; if you want a more accurate assessment of how you appear from another person’s eyes, look at a photograph instead.