January 25, 2012

"Why the long face?"

Libby Copeland writes in Slate on a study suggesting that voters aren't just looking for good-looking candidates, they favor a particular kind of good looks suggesting competence: 
What does competence look like? Working with subjects rating photos of hundreds of faces, Todorov and colleagues have developed computer models of how faces can suggest character traits like trustworthiness and likability. The competent face shape is masculine but approachable, with a square jaw, high cheekbones, and large eyes. When people say Romney just looks presidential, this is the image they’re summoning. 
Todorov and other psychologists believe that otherwise expressionless faces can appear to show emotion based on how they’re formed—the shape of the eyebrows can suggest anger, for instance, while a long distance between the eyes and the mouth can suggest sadness. On Todorov’s computer model of an incompetent face, beady, close-together eyes paired with high eyebrows suggest fearfulness, even through the face is expressionless. Todorov believes our tendency to read expression into neutral faces amounts to an “overgeneralization” of a healthy trait—human beings’ ability to judge others’ intentions from a brief glance.

I added the emphasis on the long distance between eyes and mouth connoting sadness because that's a standard in Byzantine iconography of Jesus Christ going back, oh, 1500 years. Spanish movie star Javier Bardem has a bit of that look to his face.

60 comments:

Kylie said...

"I added the emphasis on the long distance between eyes and mouth connoting sadness because that's a standard in Byzantine iconography of Jesus Christ going back, oh, 1500 years. Spanish movie star Javier Bardem has a bit of that look to his face."

Lon Chaney, Sr. had that same look.

Lon Chaney, Sr.


His son, though rounder-faced, had a sad look due to his droopy eyes and brows that lifted up at their inner corners.

MC said...

Why the long face?

Anonymous said...

that's a standard in Byzantine iconography of Jesus Christ going back, oh, 1500 years

- need to learn a bit more about icons, sweetheart.

Maya said...

Watcha gonna do? All citizens are allowed to vote in general elections, while most people (in the world) don't like to read or watch boring stuff with words they might not understand. You gotta pick your guy somehow.

P.S. Ron Paul looks like the actor who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.

Henry Canaday said...

Speaking of political visages, has anyone noticed that, when she smiles, Hillary is looking more and more like Miss Piggy?

Not that there is anything wrong with this. I had a crush on Miss Piggy in the 70s.

Svigor said...

I don't put much stock in the idea that you can't judge a book by its cover. People tend to be a lot like what their looks suggest.

Dutch Boy said...

Byzantine icons got that look from the Shroud of Turin, once kept in Constantinople and a model for Byzantine Christian iconography.

Anonymous said...

If we're selecting candidates by how good they look then we might as well give up and let this joke of a system collapse on itself.

You know what's to blame for all this? That's right, women's suffrage.

josh said...

Have you heard of the Handkerchief of Edessa? This is a cloth that Jesus wiped His face with that is said to bear an image of said face.I have been a Catholic all my life and have never heard of this til stumbling upon it(again,note the synchronicity) at the train station reading a New Yorker..last night! Today you're writing about the Byzantine guys!(My only knowledge of the Byzantines is one church attendance with my class many years ago.) Seems some dudes about 11,000 years ago took a break from hunting/gathering and built a bunch of megaliths somewhere in Turkey. These are considered mankinds first religous,well,things.The author suggests that man did not invent religion to help him cope with his new life after the invention of agriculture,but the opposite;that man developed agriculture to allow him to stay in one place and worship his gods.Religion is like sex:its in there and it must come out.If you try to stop it from coming out it will come out badly. (hello,neo-cons!) Imagine this exchange:"Hey Grog,its cool that we grow our food and all,but do you think cutting way back on meat and fat and eating gobs of grain and bread will,you know,have any health blowback?" "Oh Zontar you are such a worrywart. Of course not.Now no more kvetching,fella,or I'll burn you alive as a gift to Atonomo." "Grog you're such a cut up!"

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Notice that magazine cover models have widely spaced eyes. This accounts somewhat for the protestations that they never thought they were pretty when they were younger. Push that width too far, and people don't respond to it all that well in real life, and folks with more cramped features can still be considered attractive. Put it on film and a minimum width becomes necessary, and a previously extreme width becomes acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Within races it's definitely easier to tell intelligence by voice than by facial features. Smart folks' voices are more likely to be ironic, subconsciously mocking the ridiculousness of the commonplace things that one usually says.

Charlotte said...

"- need to learn a bit more about icons, sweetheart."

Tell us more, do, dearie. We're all ears.

Defeated said...

I cant believe two posts reflect my initial reaction to your post. First, I thought of the expressions of the Muppets and then I thought of the "Horse, why the long face?" joke.

I've looked up images of the presidents and I'm trying to find a recurring trait. Only 6, including Barry, had brown eyes.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of political visages, has anyone noticed that, when she smiles, Hillary is looking more and more like Miss Piggy?"

No, not Miss Piggy, but she has developed deep marionette lines (they run vertically) on either side of her mouth.

I've been struck by Obama's growing mole on the left side of his nose.

The more lies he tells, the bigger the mole grows???????

Anonymous said...

OT, but Steve, did you see the articles today about Bill Cosby telling people that spending more money on education won't do anything to make the situation better??


http://dailycaller.com/2012/01/25/bill-cosby-on-education-more-funding-is-not-the-answer/

Steve Sailer said...

MC wrote, as the bartender said to the horse:

"Why the long face?"

Bingo!

Anonymous said...

I think there have been studies showing that people can tell a man is gay simply by looking at his face. It's a very high accuracy rating.

Defeated said...

McKinley would be presentable by modern grooming standards. His predecessors are way too hairy. Can you imagine a modern president with a beard or even a mustache?

Early presidents tend to sport a rap star scowl.

You don't see many smiles in official portraits/photos until Ford. Maybe bad teeth, or maybe because now they are giddy about how much power they posses.

Jeff W. said...

I see that Steve changed and improved the title of this article.

"Why the long face?" is joke/question that people were supposed to ask John Kerry.

I would vote for Kerry as the prime example of a long, sad-looking face.

In the Senate, he is usually "deeply troubled" about something or other.

Defeated said...

Fred Gwynne, Vincent Price, Edward Herrmann, Pete Townsend, Salvador Dali, Jerry Sandusky.

I would only describe Pete and Jerry as sad. Maybe something else is linked to a long face.

Quasimodo had a long face -- half of it.
He was sad. I bet Jerry and Pete have often thought, "why was I not made of stone like thee."

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

I think there have been studies showing that people can tell a man is gay simply by looking at his face. It's a very high accuracy rating."

For example, if his face is buried in the lap of the guy next to him, he's probably gay.

agnostic said...

Newt and Ron Paul also have delicate noses. The bridge isn't very pronounced, so in profile it looks like the right half of a U. The bridge should come out more, and the slope should be straight, like a beak.

There's probably some pleiotropic gene influencing both a personality or behavioral trait, plus nose shape. So unlike the "waaah, irrational voters" academics, people may be on to something in judging a book by its cover.

It's probably the complex of traits we call "honor" in the sense of "a culture of honor" -- you'll stand your ground if someone tries to mess with your place, your people, or your stuff, and you'll be driven to revenge afterward.

Not the blunderbuss, anarchic violent temper of horticulturalists like the Yanamamo or highland New Guinea people, but the pastoralist culture of honor.

There's just something rugged individualist-looking about a beaklike nose. See Andrew Jackson, whose ancestors were Scotch-Irish herders.

Defeated said...

Larry Ellison has a long face. He is probably sad - on a life long shopping spree to chase away the blues.

Maya said...

"For example, if his face is buried in the lap of the guy next to him, he's probably gay."

Aw, don't generalize! I hate it when people act prejudice. He might be just taking a nap or looking for loose change.

"There's just something rugged individualist-looking about a beaklike nose. See Andrew Jackson, whose ancestors were Scotch-Irish herders."

The beak-nosed people I know are Jewish, Arab, Spanish or French.

Unknown said...

Did anyone from that time know what George Washington or anyone else looked like before the advent of photography. I would imagine they had to either see them in person or rely on caricatures from newspapers. How,oh how, did people make decisions in the olden days?

Get Off My Lawn! said...

Early presidents tend to sport a rap star scowl.

In early photographs, everyone seems to be scowling. Part of it may have been photographic technique (long exposure time required absolute stillness by the subject, and it's hard to hold a smile steady for more than a few seconds), but I also think that the convention of smiling for a photograph is a 20th-century idea.

Whiskey said...

Hawklike noses are not uncommon among the Celts. Sherlock Holmes was supposed to have it, Doyle modeled him after his Mentor Bell in Edinborough. It is also not unknown among Nordic peoples. Jackson certainly had one, and it is hard to get more Scots-Irish than him.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of an old joke.

A horse walks into a bar, walks up to counter and asks the bartender for a beer."Why the long face?" replies the bartender.

Anonymous said...

Apparently George Washington had extremely bad teeth, due to his liking for molasses, and they were decayed and painful enough for them to be all ripped out.
Apparently all the toothless Washington could eat was over boiled tripe.
Washington owned many pairs of elaborately made early false teeth.They were made of such materials as wood, ivory and porcelain and were equipped with fearsome looking springs, and looked and no doubt felt extremely uncomfortable.
That's why portraits of Washington show a very puffy looking clenched jaw.

Reg C├Žsar said...

You know what's to blame for all this? That's right, women's suffrage.
--Anonymous the Sexless

Except women preferred Nixon to Kennedy. It was men who put the latter in office. And the Tories in the UK are said to owe all their 20th-century victories to the women's vote.

Not that I'm advocating women's suffrage, but before 1970 women were consistently more conservative voters than men. In a way, they still are-- they're trying to conserve the welfare state!

Anonymous said...

Females tend to have longer faces than males in terms of having a long region between eyebrow and mouth.

But females also have wider faces through having much larger eyes (even though they have), even though they have smaller cheekbones, while having a short chin.

A person with a long midface ("a long distance between the eyes and the mouth") and small eyes ("beady eyes") I guess would have a low degree of the things that indicate healthy development along a masculine or feminine trajectory in men and women. Which might be part of what people are sensitive to (or the differences in facial shape might have something to do with the origins of our emotions - i.e. when guys want to look fearful they shift their face in a female shape direction, when guys want to look angry they exaggerate their face in a masculine direction, &c.)

NB, in addition to the above though, men have a shorter nose, as well as having a larger lower and upper jaw.

Along with large facial size overall, this may be part of why people see Blacks as having masculine faces, because they have a very short nose compared to the size of their jaw, even though they have pretty feminine faces compared to Whites and Asians, otherwise, in the sense of having large eyes, narrow cheekbones, not having angular noses and jawlines and having flat noses and arched eyebrows.

beowulf said...

Byzantine icons got that look from the Shroud of Turin, once kept in Constantinople and a model for Byzantine Christian iconography.

I love this theory; to think this is where our mental image of Jesus comes from.
The Turin Shroud was faked by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci using pioneering photographic techniques and a sculpture of his own head, a television documentary claims.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/5706640/Turin-Shroud-is-face-of-Leonardo-da-Vinci.html

Anonymous said...

I knew thispost would have many stupid comments. I expected the dummest to come from Whiskey but Svigor beat him to it.

Anonymous said...

Svigor: People tend to be a lot like what their looks suggest.

Man, I tried to make that very point, but I guess I just wasn't sufficiently tactful about it.

[I reckon I indulged in a little too much honesty about the "people" involved and the propensities "suggested". Come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if 15 or 20 comments like mine got bounced...]

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT, then again, maybe not:

There's quite an obsession with cuckoldry and its corollary husband stealing on iSteve. Yet as far as I can ascertain, no adventurous, amoral types would want to seduce either member of the typical iSteve couple. Still some of you will go on as if you were part of a sexy, power couple like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

Furthermore, even taking the old folk wisdom about the seven year itch to heart, you guys would be closer to the twenty year itch which means you'd have a heck of a time finding someone willing to scratch ya. Ok, so even Newter G managed to commit adultery on top of a desk, but this is merely one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Ok, so that other bastion of pastiness and high moral standards, affectionately known as slick Willie, managed to engage in eerily similar behavior. Let me emphasize however that not only shouldn't creepily unattractive men be finding young, nubile women with whom to ruin their reputations it's just usually too much of a sin against nature for such types to find a partner in perfidy (unless they pay),

Reality for you iSteve readers is the latter. Wife or husband, you needn't worry about being the target of a homewrecker. Nor do you need to rein in the other 99.9% of the population. Some will 'n some won't and you'll largely find that they'll make the decision independently, no need for anyone nagging them to be faithful.

John Mansfield said...

An "expressionless" face with raised eyebrows looks fearful? Does an expressionless face with a tongue stuck out look impudent?

Anonymous said...

ut I also think that the convention of smiling for a photograph is a 20th-century idea.
you nailed it angel cake, with the exception of franz hals portraits smiling was usually reserved for morons and drunkards. a slight close mouth smile was common in the archaic period but in western art, not very common - except on women - but again ,never a teeth bearing grin - that's 20th century idea

future generations will correctly see us as shallow morons.

@dutch boy sweetheart, read up on icons.

@charlotte, sweetheart its a fascinating subject comment space doesn't do it justice. but at least some of my commentary above will suffice, sunshine.

let's start by changing our conceptions of them - they are often called sacred doorways orthodox dont' pray to them but through them this may seem trivial but it's a huge conceptual difference.

Secondly when you contemplate an icon and pray you come into an 'eternal moment' outside time. so if you see a nativity seen you are the eternal moment of the nativity.....

Anonymous said...

Grover Norquists eyes are hard, squinty, and close together. whenever I see him Im reminded of the Wodehouse's Roderick Spode, leader of the British Union of Black Shorts, with a eye that could open an oyster at 60 paces.

Paul Mendez said...

There's probably some pleiotropic gene influencing both a personality or behavioral trait, plus nose shape. So unlike the "waaah, irrational voters" academics, people may be on to something in judging a book by its cover.

Years ago, my friends and I used to frequent two very different watering holes -- a Capitol Hill fern bar full of Congressional staffers, and a biker bar in Rockville that later turned out to be a major PCP distribution center.

We all noted that the female Hill staffers were uniformly gorgeous, and the biker chicks were uniformly hideous.

Some of my friends decided it was because pretty girls grew up pampered and loved, had higher self-esteem, and therefore were more successful in life.

Other friends suggested it was because smart women knew how to groom, stay healthy & take care of their looks.

I was the only one who said maybe the same genes that make one smart & successful also make one attractive. Maybe the reason we think a certain facial appearance is "pretty" is because over time we've learned that is the look of a person with good genes.

My friends all thought I was a nut.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

So Sarah Jessica Parker walks into a bar and the bartender says, "Sarah, why the long face?"

Ba-da bing.

Henry Canaday said...

“No, not Miss Piggy, but she has developed deep marionette lines (they run vertically) on either side of her mouth.”

I think it goes beyond marionette lines. Smiling Hillary has that look of absolute self-satisfaction that nevertheless hints she will explode in rage if her reasons for self-satisfaction are questioned. That’s what reminds me of 'La grande cochon.'

Anonymous said...

"Hawklike noses are not uncommon among the Celts. Sherlock Holmes was supposed to have it, Doyle modeled him after his Mentor Bell in Edinborough. It is also not unknown among Nordic peoples. Jackson certainly had one, and it is hard to get more Scots-Irish than him."

Agreed. I live in a heavily Scots-Irish area and sharp and prominent noses are really common. Not all Celts have them though...Not many Irish Catholics fit that description. They have smallish noses for the most part. The beaklike noses may actually be a Nordic trait brought to Scotland by the Vikings as opposed to the Celts.

Anonymous said...

Poor John Kerry. When Al Gore was considering naming him as his running mate in 2000, the press described him as "handsome." Then scarcely three years later, he was considered hideously ugly.

My only knock on his appearance is that he's a dead ringer for Dr. Hill, the decapitated villain of the horror movie "Re-Animator."

http://www.365horrormovie.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/reanimator.jpg

rob said...

There's quite an obsession with cuckoldry and its corollary husband stealing on iSteve.

lolwut? Linky to posty please. Or even to a couple. You have some strange obsessions and delusions. Even for an isteve reader.

Anonymous said...

"I was the only one who said maybe the same genes that make one smart & successful also make one attractive. Maybe the reason we think a certain facial appearance is "pretty" is because over time we've learned that is the look of a person with good genes."

I want you to take a good long look at a group pic of congress. Most of them aren't pretty or ugly, male or female. Then flip through an entertainment magazine in which you will notice the often scantily clad people are pretty, even the guys. I assure you the congressmen will tend to have better outcomes as parents though few of their children will become actors and models.

Now to dissect ugly. There are plenty of odd looking people who have great genes. Look at Bill Gates. Now look at any one of those Hollywood beauties. Even if their children don't end up drug addicts, do they end up anything special? I'm assuming not since you rarely hear the line "And, he/she was son of a Hollywood star." More of those senators and representatives will be mentioned as the parents of famous, successful children than any of the beautiful people. And most of them attract mates through charisma rather than looks.

BTW, no one wants to have sex with you or your wife. ; p

Maya said...

"There's quite an obsession with cuckoldry and its corollary husband stealing on iSteve."

What are you on about? You just, kind of, invented a situation (which has no basis in reality) just so you could let older married couples know that you don't want to have sex with them. Putting my profiling skills to work: you are... a somewhat young woman of average to slightly below average appearance. I'd gladly bet $10k on it.

Anonymous said...

"hawklike noses"

angel cake sweethearts, keep in mind also that facial distortions you see in icon art - big eyes, nose (and mugal are for that matter) are common among people who have not learned to accurately draw the human figure, darlings.

Anonymous said...

"lolwut? Linky to posty please. Or even to a couple. You have some strange obsessions and delusions. Even for an isteve reader."

Sorry, I had just heard Madonna's "Living in a Psychotic World" followed by Cheap Trick's "You Want me to Want You" and got a little confused.

Kylie said...

"There's quite an obsession with cuckoldry and its corollary husband stealing on iSteve. Yet as far as I can ascertain, no adventurous, amoral types would want to seduce either member of the typical iSteve couple."

So you can ascertain not only the obsessions of iSteve readers but the lack of sexual attractiveness of both them and their mates.

Do you realize how stupid that seems no question mark.

"Still some of you will go on as if you were part of a sexy, power couple like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore."

Oh, now it's becoming clear. You have apparently confused the regulars here at iSteve with those of The Daily Mail and HuffPo.

Newsflash: That gruesome twosome is only a power couple because idiots like you pay attention to them.

Here's something else. Not everyone's sense of worth is grounded in how sexually attractive s/he is to the supposedly sexy young. And telling grownups that they're somehow inadequate because the young-and-too-dumb-to-come set don't want to fuck them is really not much of an insult.

Don't bother trying again. We've already taken the full measure of your inadequacy.

Marc B said...

"The beak-nosed people I know are Jewish, Arab, Spanish or French."

You must not have met many Slavs. Slovaks in particular have been blessed with the big schnoz.

Truth said...

"There's quite an obsession with cuckoldry and its corollary husband stealing on iSteve. Yet as far as I can ascertain, no adventurous, amoral types would want to seduce either member of the typical iSteve couple. Still some of you will go on as if you were part of a sexy, power couple like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. "

LMFAO

agnostic said...

Prominent nasal bridges show up all over the UK. Liam Neeson, Bertrand Russell, Peter Cushing, Prince Philip, etc.

The Tutsi pastoralists of Rwanda have them too, unlike their Hutu farming neighbors.

You also find them more among Afghans, Pakistanis, and northwestern Indians than among those indigenous to southeastern India.

I saw a picture of a Chinese guy with an aquiline nose once (can't find the site). He wasn't Han, but from one of those cowboy pastoralist groups in the north.

The Navajo have fairly projecting nasal bridges, compared to your generic Amerindian (say the Yanamamo). And pastoralism caught on right away when the Spanish introduced sheep and horses. They must have already had the personality / behavior traits for it, they just needed the animals to herd.

agnostic said...

Here's the link to the Chinese with a prominent nasal bridge and thin width at the bottom (first picture):

http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/index.php?/topic/9247-thai-language-is-sino-tibetan/page__st__150

He's from Harbin, part of historical Manchuria, from the province with the greatest number of milk cows and highest milk production in China.

Paul Mendez said...

I want you to take a good long look at a group pic of congress. Most of them aren't pretty or ugly, male or female..

I'm looking at the "112th Congress at Your Fingertips" right now, and I'd say they are an overall above-average looking bunch, especially when you factor in that most are old enough to be grandparents of celebrities in entertainment magazines.

In fact, almost all of the female Congress-critters look like they would have been fairly attractive at 25.

I assure you the congressmen will tend to have better outcomes as parents though few of their children will become actors and models.

Any proof other than your assurance?

There are plenty of odd looking people who have great genes. Look at Bill Gates.

PUHHHLEEEEEZE! Are you telling me there are genes for being in the right place at the right time?

Now look at any one of those Hollywood beauties. Even if their children don't end up drug addicts, do they end up anything special? I'm assuming not...

Again, any proof other than your assumption?

More importantly, Hollywood is not the sole destination of attractive women. In addition to beauty, a narcissistic need for attention is a prerequisite for stardom

More of those senators and representatives will be mentioned as the parents of famous, successful children than any of the beautiful people.

Again, Puhhhhleeeeze! Are you telling me George W. Bush became 43rd president through his genetic inheritance of intelligence and drive? Children of powerful people are successful because of the influence of their family's social position, not because of good genes or good parenting.

Defeated said...

"Reality for you iSteve readers is the latter."

I'm not quite sure, what was the former?

Otherwise, a very insightful post, was it a collaborate effort? Or should one of the voices in your head get the lion's share of credit?

ricpic said...

The most appealing thing about any face is its symmetry. This is what most people are referring to when they remark that someone has even or regular features, a huge plus for that person's likeability.

Paul Mendez said...

@Anonymous 11:18pm

Nancy Pelosi looked pretty hot when she was young, but Michelle Obama, not so much. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin kinda cute. Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Al Gore, Joe Biden were all pretty studly.

http://futuremd.blogspot.com/2009/02/when-they-were-young.html

Barbara Boxer was a looker, too.

i'm too sexy for this blog said...

"I'm looking at the "112th Congress at Your Fingertips" right now, and I'd say they are an overall above-average looking bunch, especially when you factor in that most are old enough to be grandparents of celebrities in entertainment magazines. "

Why are you being so silly? The bar isn't very high here. Most groups of people aren't going to be particularly unattractive. Wearing certain styles and colors make most people look rough while just about anyone looks good in business attire.

This blog has grown ever more frivolous and tiresome. I must be outgrowing it.

Anonymous said...

In the last paragraph of the Slate article, the author says "familiarity breeds attraction."

Probably more on point to say "familiar breeding is attractive." Birds of a feather flock together, duh. But that's too basic for the over-educated.

Charlotte said...

"@charlotte, sweetheart its a fascinating subject comment space doesn't do it justice. but at least some of my commentary above will suffice, sunshine.

let's start by changing our conceptions of them - they are often called sacred doorways orthodox dont' pray to them but through them this may seem trivial but it's a huge conceptual difference.

Secondly when you contemplate an icon and pray you come into an 'eternal moment' outside time. so if you see a nativity seen you are the eternal moment of the nativity....."

Ok. Thanks. Sounds difficult for a material girl but I'll practice.