Why You Hate the Way You Look in Photos

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OK, so all of your pictures are ugly. What gives?

To be attractive, society says your face needs to be symmetrical. However, most real people out there do not have symmetrical faces. Even actors and models have asymmetrical faces.

In 1968, psychologist Robert Zajonc coined the term “mere-exposure,” which is the psychological phenomenon in which people react more favorably to things they have seen more often. This effect is also referred to the familiarity principle by modern psychologists.

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Zajonc’s research included everything from shapes to facial expressions and even nonsensical words and phrases. Since you see yourself most frequently in the mirror, this is your self-image that you like most — and since you are actually looking at a flipped image of yourself, you are liking something which is not actually the real you.

This real image is shown to you when we see your picture. That’s why when you compare your photo to what you see in the mirror, you get a bit confused.

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The mere-exposure effect shows us that when your facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unfamiliar but real version of yourself.

In short, the mirror lies and your pictures show more of what you actually look like. Yikes!

Think you are still better looking than you actually are? There’s a separate explanation for that..

In a series of studies, Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia found a logical explanation.

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In the tests, researchers digitally altered the pictures of the participants and made them look more attractive and less attractive by combining them with a picture of an attractive — or unattractive — person of the same gender.

They mixed these doctored versions of each person in with photos of strangers and asked the subjects to pick themselves out of the line up. The results were not surprising: participants quickly selected the more attractive versions of themselves.

The study also reveals that people display this bias only for themselves but not for strangers.

In short, we just see ourselves as better looking than we actually are. Therefore, aside from mere-exposure, those ugly pictures of yours that your friend keeps on tagging you with on Facebook probably aren’t going to live up to your own expectations.

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