12.07.2012

60 Minutes - Jessica Alba is Pretty Average


Hi. It's Joe.

The thesis of this post is going to sound counterintuitive at first, and possibly even sacreligious, but it's supported by science.

Jessica Alba is just average.

That's not to say she is not beautiful. Rather, it is to say that the group consensus on what is beautiful tends to be those physical attributes that are the average (arithmetic mean) of those attributes in the general population. Thus average is beautiful and to say someone is uniquely attractive is a contradiction in terms. An attractive person is actually quite commonplace.

When studies are done on this, people rate images of people as more attractive if they have physical features that fall close to the average in the general population in which they live. Some scientists even took images of real people and then "averaged" out the facial features, visually. When they did, people rated the manipulated images as more attractive, presumably because they were closer to the population mean.

As it turns out, Jessica Alba has facial features that fall very close to the average dimensions that most people would call attractive (SOURCE). Kim Kardashian would also approach the mean in this regard.
The distance between the centers of the eyes and between the eyes and the mouth, as a proportion of overall head size, seem to be the key determinants. You subconsciously do the math when you assess beauty, but when you deem a face to be attractive, it is because it is average. Nothing more.

These average facial proportions would, in the abstract, be the Platonic "ideal" of beauty. I don't think there is any way around it...beauty is common. It's the thing you have the most likelihood of seeing in the physical features of others, drawn at random from the population. Indeed, this might be why we see a lot of beauty in nature. Nature is the average of billions of years of evolution. When nature is disrupted (uniquely), we say it looks ugly (think oil refineries).


Jessica Alba's Average Face (SOURCE)

So that's enough on that. Here is where it gets good. This attractiveness ideal that you have in your head is based on experience looking at the people that you see when you are out and about in the world, and then taking an average ideal against which to compare other people.

Many people take their social cues from the media, and in particular, advertising, which is everywhere these days.

Advertisers always try to show attractive people when marketing their products. So even if you have no interest in the product advertised, your brain is still taking in subconscious cues about the people you see in the ads. All the models on TV and in magazines are essentially customizing your brain to the attractiveness ideal of advertisers, which in turn is based on the average traits in the general population, which in turn sets the standard for attractiveness, which then guides the advertisers...full circle. With airbrushing and digital manipulation of idealized people in ads, it almost can't be more middle of the road milquetoast average.

But if you buy the product, you will be more like those beautiful average people.

Physical attractiveness is about as far from unique or special as you can get. It's actually the most common thing out there. Think of a bell curve of the population with the most attractive people clustered around the middle. There are probably sound biological reasons why we are attracted to the commonplace. The mean of the population is where most of the population is. Other evolutionary adaptive traits probably ride along on the genes for attractiveness (most common means you have genes that make you more likely to be alive, statistically), and so your Darwinian success (aka, your ability to find a mate) is probably best served by using physical attractiveness as a proxy for a "fit" mate.


<-- JUST AVERAGE...

But there's a catch. Almost everyone else thinks the average people are attractive too. So you have a lot of competition if you are just basing your selection of mates on physical attractivess.

You actually need to go beyond the average of physical attractiveness in a person and find their VALUE. These can be personality traits or skills or anything that singles someone out of the mainstream herd as "special." In fact, you need to convey to other people what makes you special too.

It's a two way street.

This is why you can date a physically beautiful person and quickly lose interest if there is no "personality." This is also why you might be attracted to the unique personality quirks of someone who is not as close to the physical attractiveness ideal. Indeed, you should let the herd mentality run free in everyone else, even encourage it. While they are all competing for the physically attractive (average) people, you can be more selective and find someone more special when no one is looking.

Also, ladies, when your man is checking out a "hot babe" when you are out on a date, just remember...she's completely average. Mediocre. Middle of the road. The hotter she is, the more average she is. Most of the time, this hot babe is not special in any way, as far as your man is concerned (mathematically, this is the most logical conclusion he can reach...so just ignore the drool...he can't control that...).

Science does not lie. See above.

I wrote a song about Jessica Alba once. It's pretty mediocre.

So I guess it's actually good...listen to it HERE.

Your thoughts?

Time.

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