Working out your level of attractiveness

I was having a discussion with my girlfriend yesterday on a blog post by Tyler Cowen. There are a lot of interesting points in the post, but the one that struck me and led to the discussion was:

“The median photograph of you is probably the best approximation of your physical attractiveness ”

The reason Tyler gives for this is that there is a random sample of photos taken of a person, so on average a photo will show what you look like. Compare this to the method we actually use to judge how good we look; the mirror. In the mirror we make ourselves look as good as we can, so it gives us an upwardly biased sample of how we look. So based on this, we should use photos to tell how good we look, a scary thought.

This is where the discussion between my girlfriend and me appeared. She said that the sample of photos was biased, as people often know there photo is going to be taken and act appropriately. We interpreted this in two different ways:

Matt: So the sample of photos is biased upwards, since people pose when they are having their photo taken. As a result, I look even worse then my average photo!

Rosie: It depends on the person. When Matt knows a photo is going to be taken he makes stupid faces. As a result, the sample of photos is biased downwards.

I don’t know. I don’t think any of this bodes well for my attractiveness. At least I have economics 😉

  • satsumasalad

    If the photo is a posed one, it’s probably about as accurate as the mirror, maybe marginally better as you don’t control when the shot is taken, whereas you do control when you focus on the image in the mirror, ie when tummy is pulled in, boobs are plumped etc. But essentially I’d say it’s about the same.

    However if the photo is a candid action-in-situ one, eg of a group of friends around a dinner table eating and talking and gesticulating, then it is probably more representative of the real you, and possibly captures some of your je-ne-sais-quoi – humour, sparkle etc – that won’t come over in a staged pose. So any downside of seeing tummy roll, double chin etc will be offset by your more evident animal magnetism.

    Or something

  • Matt Nolan

    I’m not sure. Either way, a photograph should be a good representation of how I look. Thats an uncomfortable thought 😉

    Animal magnetism, I like the sound of that.