When you've gotta selfie, science says this one pose will boost your beauty
On the cusp of the Victorian era, a time marked by moral rigidity, proper conduct, sexual repression and an appreciation for extreme modesty, photography was emerging tech.
Unsurprisingly, our earliest pictures are dour, high-collared fam jams where smiling was as rare as the use of the term fam jam. In fact, the oldest surviving picture isn't even of people. It's a view of a french countryside from a high window. A humble landscape shot, taken from the inside, looking out. Almost all photographic evidence of human subjects in the years that followed prove that the only decent family was a stoic, self-effacing one. It's tempting to interpret early pics as lifeless. Nowhere is that more evident than in the creepiest photography trend of the time, the Victorian death portrait, where recently deceased family members were propped up (sometimes standing) with their surviving relatives for the purposes of a final family pic (#thegangsallhere). It gets worse — the convention of showing zero emotion makes it difficult to distinguish the living subjects from the dead.
Today we live in an era of aggressive pouts, squinty Zoolander-esque scowls and Instagram rumps, the lively drama of which are oft captured in our bathrooms. You can't fight progress.
Also, I've nothing against selfies but the only thing that can compete with the weirdness of death portraits is the normalcy of duckfaces. Still, if you're going to take a selfie (and you are), science now knows the best ways to get your hottest shot. Whether you're a seasoned selfie snapper or you only begrudgingly capture your likeness for the purposes of profile pics, German scientists can tell you how to immortalize your sexiest thirst trap. A new batch of studies published in Frontiers in Psychology had subjects rate faces for attractiveness and the data provided us with the one thing you need to ace your next selfie: tilt.
When researchers had subjects rate faces for cute factor and general likeability, favorable ratings went to headshots that had been taken with a 30 degree camera tilt. Note that a tilt to both the left or right consistently upped one's allure (again, something to take with you on your next dating app pic update). But the study also showed that a higher level of attraction went to faces that were captured at a more subtle 15 degree tilt that showcased the left side. Consider that the stats leaned in favour female faces in this instance. The tendency to love the left side isn't entirely new data. We've known for a while that we're much better at reading human facial emotions on the left side of the face and consequently favour gazing upon its telltale features.
The only thing that improved our the love of the left facial hemisphere was height. Take note: the very zenith of selfie mastery is a tilt/elevation combo that captures the left side of the face from an elevated and angled vantage point. It not only boosted attraction and a perception of helpfulness, it lowered perceived body weight. If you're trying to look more svelte, the camera loves from above. While reactions and attraction gleaned by face scanning were always favorable with a tilt, data did show that cam perspective could sway the nature of that attraction depending on the subject. Oddly, presenting the less readable right side of the face at a 30 degree angle boosted the perception that the subject was of a sympathetic nature, but only in male faces. The same vantage point increased a perception of intelligence, but only in women. Curiously, going high and right was not advantageous - a higher angle on the right actually lowered perceived helpfulness across demographics. Though the study was heavily gendered, there was a clear consensus on the least favorable vantage point for everyone: the deer in headlights. Head on selfies are not doing you any favours, so if you must selfie (and you must), embrace the tilt. Duckface optional but not recommended.
The recent research aims to put a dent in the data, or lack thereof, of an increasingly pervasive social norm that we still don't quite understand. The study authors are clear that current relevant research is "still in the fledgling stage and the scientific framework is sparse". If we want to really unpack the phenomenon of online thirst traps scientifically, more selfies will be needed for study (which may be the first time anyone has written that). Still, as long as the death portrait stays at the back of history's photo album, I'll happily lean into a #duckfacesforscience trend.
Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen