Sometimes, I don’t understand the point of rigorous scientific studies, like the one referenced in this article. The title of the article says it all - “You are less beautiful than you think”.
Really? Someone would actually go to such great lengths to emphatically state that our perception of our beauty/worth is way more bloated than reality? That we, in fact, look uglier than we think?
That’s all we need today, isn’t it? Someone to justify our qualms that the reflection we see in the mirror is way more unflattering than some of us already imagine.
I see a fundamental issue with this study as well. If you were to tell people that their pictures are morphed and then give them several choices from which they are asked to pick the image that they believe to be un-morphed, of course, people start with a strong bias. All of us want to strongly believe that we look better than how we see ourselves. If a researcher tells us that most images are morphed, we would hang onto that piece of evidence like a life-raft! Everybody innately wants to look good and be their best. Obviously, people would mostly gravitate to a picture that looks slightly flattering, especially if they know the pictures are altered. Nobody would pick a negatively enhanced picture after they are warned by the researchers. Besides, we humans can’t identify minor differences between images (such as a 10% slight change in facial features etc.). As an objective reader of the paper, even I couldn’t tell the difference between the 10%, 20% and 30% positively and negatively morphed faces.
But, does it really warrant such an extensive study (and an emphatic article) to state the obvious - that we humans like to feel good about ourselves? It’s common sense that most of us don’t like to be masochists. The fact that most participants in the study did not select their original image, but picked an image that was slightly positively enhanced is very telling - most people are not happy with how they actually look and want to believe and hope that they look slightly better. We all nurture the idea (not the belief) of an ideal-self. This illusion of an ideal-self is necessary (to some degree) for self-preservation, and even self-realization. But it doesn’t mean that we all believe to have already realized this “ideal-self” - we are constantly striving to attain that perfection and idealism, and that’s where the issue is. If women (and men) mostly believe that they are far more better looking and equipped with desirable traits, why are so many of us so insecure and lacking in confidence all the time? Why is every other woman unhappy about some aspect of her physical appearance? Why do brightly lit restroom mirrors scare the living daylights out of (most of) us?
How do such studies corroborate with the realities of the world outside the science labs? And what do they achieve or hope to achieve with this piece of knowledge?
Dove’s recent campaign might be a little stretched. Yes, it has its scientific lapses, but I think it bolsters something way more positive and constructive than certain scientists that resolutely continue to miss the forest for the trees.