The Dove Real Beauty Sketches aimed to prove one thing: That women are their own harshest critics. It was a nice reminder with a gentle message behind it, except for one thing — according to science, it isn't necessarily true. As research continues to show, as we are presented with our own image, we (both women and men) choose to envision an idealized, not-totally-realistic version of our visage.
The fascination for figuring out what we really look like continues to intrigue scientists, and a new study has a theory that makes a lot of sense — we understand how we appear, but we just prefer an idealized version of ourselves. The often-cited University of Chicago study discusses what happens when researchers show individuals photos of themselves, plus enhanced or edited versions (both traditionally "better" and "worse" looking). The participants, it appears, picked the prettier versions — when they feel good about themselves. This is interesting because it shows that preferring a doctored version of yourself doesn't mean you are necessarily making up for any shortcomings; it means you have better self-esteem.
With this study in mind, Catalina Toma of the University of Wisconsin-Madison argues that this is why Facebook can be so appealing: We are able to curate and emphasize the pictures of ourselves that we feel we look best in. In fact, she proved that people actually get an ego boost when looking through the photos they have chosen to tag. They see the prettiest, self-approved pictures, which then serve as an affirmation of their attractiveness. In fact, the study proved that when the ego was being tested, people tended to gravitate towards Facebook for a little pick-me-up.
What is most important to both studies is not the fact that women (and men, too — the U of C study showed no difference between the genders) have wildly different conceptions of how attractive they look, but that happier people tend to think of themselves in a better light. So maybe untagging those weird double-chin/red-eye photos on FB isn't such a bad idea, because it might make you feel better about yourself in the long run. (The Guardian)
Photographed by Nina Westervelt