The Truth Behind the Lens

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The Truth Behind the Lens

"Look at each side separately. The difference is astounding."

"Look at each side separately. The difference is astounding."

"Look at each side separately. The difference is astounding."

Ailsa Thai, Staff Writer/Cartoonist

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The truth behind selfies – you’re actually 20 percent uglier than you think you look.

In an age with an abundance of selfies, I thought I was the only one who couldn’t take a perfect picture – I often blamed my crooked chin, tilted lips, and tiny right eye on my phone’s photo-flip function. That is, until I realized that my dreadful selfie-self was how I looked to rest of the world. It’s a sad day when you realize that you’re uglier than you think you are. It’s an even sadder day when science proves it.

Apparently, I’m not the only one. Nolan Feeney of The Atlantic investigates the issue in his article “Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects.” “Why does my face look so weird? Are my eyelids that droopy? Is my chin that lop-sided? And how come nobody warned me?” Feeney asks.

Well, it all boils down to how the brain works, the natural asymmetry of the human face, and camera angles, lighting, and, yes, that photo-flip function (which, by the way, brings the whole shebang back to the brain).

An experiment conducted by Nicholas Epley, a behavioral psychologist at the University of Chicago, pitted individuals’ perceptions of their appearance against reality. In his experiment, individuals were asked to identify themselves from a series of photos, ranging from beautified versions of their appearances to less attractive photo manipulations.

Epley found that his participants were more likely to identify with the “prettier” versions ofthemselves and mostly selected the faces made 20 percent more attractive (according to conventional beauty standards) than their own.

Another study conducted at the University of Wisconsin showed that people preferred their mirror-images (which Snapchat captures and which you see every morning) over their real image (which the photo-flip function gives you). The explanation is relatively simple – people see themselves everyday in the mirror, and thus, they become used to and develop a preference for their mirror images.

(For you science enthusiasts out there, this is called the mere-exposure hypothesis.)

“The interesting thing is that people don’t really know what they look like. The image you have of yourself in your mind is not quite the same as what actually exists,” says Epley.

So yes, you and I probably look uglier than we think we look, but the good news is, just as we are accustomed to our mirror images, everybody else is used to our real image. “This enhancement bias occurred for both one’s own face and a friend’s face but not for a relative stranger’s face,” writes Epley.

That basically means while you may think (now) that your real image is less attractive than you are used to, everyone else may think you look just fine, double meaning intended. I got you there, didn’t I?

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