We are not as attractive as we think we are


Epley and Whitchurch, 2008

When people are shown a full array of photos of themselves, from 50 percent more attractive to 50 percent less attractive, they choose the 20 percent better-looking photo as the one they like most and think they most resemble. This is an important , general result: self-deception is bounded – 30 percent better looking is implausible, while 10 percent better fails to gain the full advantage.  Robert Trivers, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, 2011.

After reading Robert Trivers’ book on self-deception, I now understand why so many people dislike photos of themselves. People’s image of themselves differs from reality. That is, they perceive themselves to be more attractive than they actually are. Consequently, when faced with reality, they don’t like what they see.

Keep this fact in mind the next time you see photos of yourself. It’s not always the photographer’s fault.

For the original study on morphing photos into attractive an unattractive versions, see Epley, N.; Whitchurch, E. “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition,” PSPB 2008, 34, 1159-1170.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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