If you were on the Internet the last few months, then you probably saw this viral video. It’s called “Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” and follows real women as they have a forensic artist draw them; first based off of how they described themselves and then based off of how others saw them. In the end, the women find that the strangers had them drawn more beautiful than they had themselves drawn and the tagline: “You are more beautiful than you think you are” scrolls across the screen.
If you’re like me (and the millions of other women that shared this video), this made you cry, or at least mist up a bit. But the question is why? Is it because you thought the women in the video were beautiful and wish they saw themselves that way too? Or is it that you pictured yourself in the same scenario—unjustly telling the artist that your forehead was too big or your eyes too far apart?
If you’re the Scientific American, it was the latter. They recently uncovered the psychological fact that we don’t actually think we’re ugly. In fact, “we tend to think of our appearance in ways that are more flattering than are warranted.” In other words, we see ourselves through the rose colored glasses of narcissism.
The core of this research is from Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia. Together, they took pictures of study participants and then digitally changed the image to be more attractive or less attractive. The participants were then told that they would be shown a series of images—the original image of them, and the altered versions. Finally, they were asked to identify the unmodified picture. Low and behold, participants tended to select the image that was enhanced to make them look more attractive. However, when they were asked to identify a stranger’s pictures, they could successfully pick the unmodified image.
It doesn’t stop at looks either. Research has shown we think we are better drivers than in actuality, more generous, smarter, and so on.
What do you think? Can you accurately rate your looks?
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