Mirror mirror on the wall

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People’s inferences about their own traits and abilities are often enhancing. A series of experiments suggests that this enhancement extends to more automatic and perceptual judgments as well, such that people recognize their own faces as being more physically attractive than they actually are. In each experiment, participants’ faces were made more or less attractive using a morphing procedure. Participants were more likely to recognize an attractively enhanced version of their own face out of a lineup as their own, and they identified an attractively enhanced version of their face more quickly in a lineup of distracter faces. This enhancement bias occurred for both one’s own face and a friend’s face but not for a relative stranger’s face. Such enhancement was correlated with implicit measures of self-worth but not with explicit measures, consistent with this variety of enhancement being a relatively automatic rather than deliberative process.

The assumption is, of course, that photoshopped images are objectively more beautiful than actual photos. The procedure actually went something like this:
Caucasian participants (N=27, 18 female) posed for a photograph at the end of an unrelated experiment. The experimenter instructed participants to remove their glasses and facial piercings and to pull back their hair if it fell onto their faces. Participants were also instructed to form a neutral expression for the picture. These images were then cropped and subjected to a procedure designed to systematically alter their facial attractiveness, namely, by morphing their photograph with a highly attractive or unattractive face.

So take from that what you will. I wonder how 'good' those photos are? And since when photographs are 'true' reflections of our image in others' eyes?

Even if this finding was valid, I really doubt that this bias would apply to depressed individuals. Non-depressed individuals tend to exhibit a higher rating of the self in most areas tested so far (most people think they're above average), much more so than depressed individuals. The authors did note that "the more positive one’s intuitive and automatic assessment of the self, the more they should recognize positively enhanced images of their face as their actual face. (pg. 2)"

In other self-measured areas, people also:

- tend to like the letters in their own name more than letters that are not in their name (Koole, Dijksterhuis, & van Knippenberg, 2001; Nuttin, 1985)
- faster to identify positive words and slower to identify negative words following a self-relevant subliminal prime than a self-irrelevant prime (Spalding & Hardin, 1999).
- tend to unknowingly prefer jobs, spouses, and even grades that bear some resemblance to the self (Nelson & Simmons, 2007; Pelham, Mirenberg, & Jones, 2002).
- in predictions of relationship longevity, those in the midst of a relationship were more miscalibrated (in the predictable direction) than were observers (see also Gagne & Lydon, 2004).

Epley, N., & Whitchurch, E. (2008). Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin OnlineFirst, published on June 11, 2008 as doi:10.1177/0146167208318601.

Gagne, F. M., & Lydon, J. E. (2004). Bias and accuracy in close relationships: An integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, 322-338.

Koole, S. L., Dijksterhuis, A., & van Knippenberg, A. (2001). What’s in a name: Implicit self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 614-627.

Nelson, L. D., & Simmons, J. P. (2007). Moniker maladies: When names sabotage success. Psychological Science, 18, 1106-1112.

Nuttin, J. M. (1985). Narcissism beyond Gestalt and awareness: The name letter effect. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15, 353-361.

Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. K. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469-487.

Spalding, L. R., & Hardin, C. D. (1999). Unconscious unease and self-handicapping: Behavioral consequences of individual differences in implicit and explicit self-esteem. Psychological Science, 10,535-539.

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