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Health, Sports & Psychology

Are Appearances Really Deceptive?

Updated Tuesday, 9th August 2005

Ever Wondered sent Raj Persaud out to discover why first impressions might be more important than you think

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Raj Persaud Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Raj at circus Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University Raj Persaud is one of the most successful psychiatrists in the country. He has appeared in numerous programmes and has published many popular pieces in the national press. He has been described as the most eminent psychiatrist of the age.

"We spend a lot of time checking our appearance in the mirror. Is that contortionist because our appearance is important to us or to other people? The very fact that so many of us are trying to change our body shape, by going to the gym and dieting, suggests that we have a very strong idea of a particular body image that others might find attractive.

But why do we like certain faces, is it just because of personal preference and taste? How then do we explain that certain faces are found universally attractive?

clown Physiologists suggest that this is because of our genetic programming. We are genetically programmed to find babies attractive. If we didn't, we wouldn't look after them and they then wouldn't pass our genes on to the next generation.

The baby face look is characterised by large eyes. This might explain why women wear make-up to make their eyes larger, as they are trying to achieve this baby face look. Baby's face

The problem with babies is that they need a lot of looking after. In American research, Hollywood actresses that look more baby face are only popular in times of economic boom, when a man can afford to look after a dependent woman. Hollywood starlets who look less baby face are more popular in an economic recession, so it appears that when men are on hard times they prefer women who can look after themselves.

Raj distorted in mirror What we find attractive depends to some extent on what we need and as our needs vary over time this explains what we find during good times is different to what we find during bad times.

Although a baby face is found attractive not everyone can look like a baby. Could there, therefore, be some situations where it's a positive advantage to have a facial appearance characterised by being stern and intimidating?

Clown A study at the top US military academy at West Point found that the facial appearance of the graduates in the final year photos more accurately predicted the subsequent success of becoming generals in their final year.

The facial appearance that the study found to be the most likely in helping you to become a General was the one described as being dominant, characterised by low eyebrows and a square jaw. In other words, having a dominant look actually helps you achieve a dominant position in the army. In other words your face really is your future".

If you would like to find out more about philosophical issues then click here to look at the course A211 Philosophy and the Human Situation

If you would like to find out more about these subjects, here are a few suggestions.

Books You Can Read:

Atlas of Facial Expression : An Account of Facial Expression for Artists, Actors, and Writers, Stephen Rogers Peck, Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0195063228

It's All in the Face : The Key to Finding Your Life Purpose, Daniels Pub; ISBN: 0964639815

Amazing Face Reading : An Illustrated Encyclopedia for Reading Faces, Mac Fulfer Creative Alternatives.; ISBN: 0965593126

The Face, Daniel Mcneill, Penguin Books; ISBN: 0140259937

The Body and the Self, Jose Luis Bermudez, M I T Press; ISBN: 0262023865

Links You Can Surf:

More information on Raj Persaud

Also on this site: You can join Richard Wilson as he gets under his own skin to learn about the genetics of the face and Louise Jameson as she explores the use of autobiographies

If you think you might be interested in studying more about these subjects, find out what the Open University has to offer.

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