Scientists at Tel Aviv University claim to have created a computer program that can recognize human attractiveness. Here's what they did: they had thirty men and women look at 100 images of young, white women and judge the "beauty" of each image. Then, according to EurekAlert, "Based on human preferences, the machine 'learned' the relation between facial features and attractiveness scores and was then put to the test on a fresh set of faces." The computer rankings turned out to be very similar to the rankings people gave, and so the scientists are surmising that the computer is "interpreting" beauty on a human level. On researcher, Amit Kagian, says "I believe that some kind of universal correctness to beauty exists in nature, an aesthetic interpretation of the universal truth. But because each of us is trapped with our own human biases and personalized viewpoints, this may detract us from finding the ultimate formula to a complete understanding of beauty."

These "personalized viewpoints" of beauty are what seemingly makes the world go 'round, but for people with body dysmorphic disorder, their overly personalized/distorted thoughts about their own looks often drive them to obsessive plastic surgery, eating disorders, and other bodily harm.


As pointed out in an article in the current issue of Scientific American, doctors used to think that body dysmorphic disorder (when a person becomes "pathologically preoccupied with an imagined or barely noticeable defect in his or her appearance") was caused by a combination of nature and nurture. As S.A. puts it, "Psychological factors such as low self-esteem, coupled with society's restrictive definition of physical beauty, are likely to play a role in the disorder." But more recently, psychiatrists and psychologists have found that people with BDD might have "unusually acute perceptual abilities," specifically an "overemphasis on visual details," which helps explain why they "worry so much about minuscule deviations in their features." Maybe so, but whether anyone is pathologically focused on details or robotically-concerned with making a model of "universal beauty," they're missing out on the more intangibly human aspects of attractiveness: a sexy laugh, a sparkling eye, a warm demeanor.

[Image via Mathemetician's Pictures.]

TAU Scientists Teach A Computer To Recognize Attractiveness In Women [EurekAlert!]
Imagined Ugliness [Scientific American, sub. req.]