Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, October 4, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: Facial Asymmetry and the Other Self

20th century prophet and clairvoyant Saint Slava Sevrukova saw Jesus Christ in a religious time travel vision and claimed that his facial features were mesmerizingly symmetrical. Image Source: The New Oxonian.

Welcome to a new installment in this year's Hallowe'en Countdown! Today, I follow up on this post about Mark Twain's speculation that Satan was a metaphor for our dream selves - a manifestation of our deepest, most unruly instincts. Today's post is about the hidden sides of ourselves which lie in plain sight, quietly expressed through body language, posture, a nervous tic. Good tailors and seamstresses know that people's whole bodies are asymmetrical, and part of the artistry of their craft lies in making clothes which make a body appear balanced, when it really isn't.

Gwyneth Paltrow has highly unusual facial symmetry. Her regular appearance (center); her right side is mirrored on itself in the far left photo; her left side is mirrored on itself in the far right photo. Princess Diana also had a very symmetrical face (see here). Image Source: right reading.

The same goes for faces. Very few people have nearly perfectly symmetrical faces. Facial asymmetry is a feature known to artists, photographers and hairstylists. Half their battle is finding the flattering angle in an imperfect subject. You can see a professional photographer discussing how she lights her own face to make it look balanced, 'normal' and beautiful, here. But there are even deeper dimensions to the implicit metaphysical messages our unbalanced faces give. With every crooked smile, we supposedly betray the ghosts which lurk within us.

President Ronald Reagan's facial asymmetry (his normal appearance on the far left; the right side (from his POV) of his face mirrored in the central photo; the left side of his face mirrored on itself in the photo on the far right). Image Source: Reddit.

President Ronald Reagan's facial asymmetry; his right side mirrored on itself (right) - and his left side mirrored on itself (left). Image Source: imgur.

Marilyn Monroe's facial asymmetry (note: Marilyn's right side is confusing placed in the bottom left photo). Image Source: University of Toronto.

Paris Hilton almost always presents her right side to be photographed. A blogger claims her facial asymmetry results from "a cranial strain we call a sidebending rotation." Image Source: Doctor Hoang's Straight Talk.

It is often rumoured that movie stars, celebrities, models and other public figures know which side of their face looks best and insist on photographic compositions and lighting which focus on that side. In 2009, Mariah Carey lifted a ban on photographs of the left side of her face. Even rarely photographed people have a vague idea that one side of their face looks better than the other.

"A recent study suggests that people, like Katy Perry here, appear more appealing when viewed from the left side of their face (left) as opposed to the right side (right)." Image Source: Daily Mail.

Research indicates that people are perceived as more attractive when photographed or painted from their left side than when depicted from their right side. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that facial expressions reflect different brain hemispheric dominance. According to research findings, people are apparently more attracted to the impulses exerted in our faces by the right sides of our brains on the left sides of our faces. The right side of the brain is the more intuitive and imaginative side. Meanwhile, the left side of the brain (the logical, analytical and objective side) controls the right side of the face, and in fact, the whole right side of the body. Our faces express a process called emotional lateralization.

Social messages conflict over the relative merits of sense and sensibility. We may find right brain expressiveness (our sensibilities) shown on the left side of the face to be more attractive. But we consider left brain logic (our sense) demonstrated on the right side of the face to be dominant. The manipulated photos shown here are called 'bicameral images.' The word bicameral refers to the governmental idea of having 'two legislative chambers.' A bicameral image reveals that there are two personalities in every person. And Dan Eden explains that due to today's social pressures, the logical left side of the brain (expressed on the right side of the face) usually becomes the dominant side:
The term [bicameral image] was coined by psychologist Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. But it fits so well in describing an extremely interesting phenomenon that many people may not realize -- each of us is really two people. No, I don't mean in the traditional sense of having an alter-ego, or a good and bad side. Nor do I mean that we are all schizoids. I mean we are literally two thinking beings residing in the same body.

Early hominids had one mind. It was what psychologists call a "reactive" mind. It only exhibited what we would consider higher thought processes when it was presented with a problem. It didn't plan for the future or imagine how to improve things like a dwelling, a tool or escaping a predator. It only reacted to situations that happened in the "here and now." But, according to Janes, a sudden improvement happened when the human brain decided to double its efforts in thought processing. Now, although you and I have one brain, each half of it has the ability to act independently at the same time. ...
This exercise seemed to suggest that, while a handful of people have symmetrical faces, a vast majority of us do not. Also it raised the possibility that each side of our face could express different emotions at the same time! Subsequent research into facial expressions and the workings of the human brain has offered an interesting theory that not only explains this left and right difference in facial expressions, but could help us to understand our "other self." ...
While looking at this gallery of faces, ask yourself which side appears to dominate? -- which emotions seem to be expressed by each side? -- what's your gut reaction to each facial expression? In some cases, two opposite personalities will be evident while in others ... there seems to be a more uniform and symmetric look. ...
This argument suggests that, more often than not, the 'other self,' or our emotional and even "repressed" and "recessive" nature is evident in the left side of the face. The argument is reversed for people who are left-handed, such as President Obama. Even more oddly, and controversially, a 2011 study (of a small test group) found that greater symmetry is associated with heterosexuality, while noticeable facial asymmetry is perceived as a sign of homosexuality. There is something bizarrely reminiscent here of Social Darwinism, of primal fear masquerading as logical, scientific fact. How ironic.

Jim Morrison's facial asymmetry (note: Morrison's right side is confusingly placed in the bottom left photo). Image Source: University of Toronto.

Reddit's online chatter explores similar ideas, namely, that we have a dominant or socially accepted side, and a subverted, subversive, yet attractive 'other' side:
  • "I was watching a documentary today about dogs and people. Apparently a person's right side of their face is more natural and "true to form" than the left side of the face. We put more energy into the emotions of the right side then the left. So when the mirrored the right side (the middle) it looks somewhat normal. But doing the same to the left side makes it look really weird. ... Dogs (and we as humans) apparently glance at a person[']s right side of the face first to pick up social cues. Here is the study: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/2430/1/Racca_et_al._2010.pdf"
  • "But my left side is the attractive one...."
  • "I remember reading that we all have one dominant side -- usually right, but not always -- and if you do this split/flip/duplicate thing on anyone, you'll get two distinct personalities, one more 'alive' than the other. Also seemed to remember that there was a link between faced-ness, dominant eyes, and professions. [Study here.]
  • "A false smile often appears stronger on one side of the face than the other, as both sides of the brain attempt to make it appear genuine. The half of the brain's cortex that specialises in facial expressions is in the right hemisphere and sends signals mainly to the left side of the body. As a result, false facial emotions are more pronounced on the left side of the face than the right. In a real smile, both brain hemispheres instruct each side of the face to act with symmetry." [See book on body language and related Website here.]
It is also important to look at these photographic reconstructions as a false construct of our times. Our photoshopped world never takes a document of reality on its own terms. We always have to manipulate reality so that we may find what we are already seeking. If we expect to find good and evil twins in ourselves, we will find them. The whole curious experiment raises questions about our ideas of normal and abnormal; beauty and ugliness; acceptable and unacceptable ways of seeing the world; comparative morality; the 'other' in gender and sexual orientation differences; perceptions of mental illness; and so on.

Johnny Depp's facial asymmetry. Image Source: vbulletin.

Matt Damon's facial asymmetry. His regular appearance (centre) - note how the photographer has highlighted one side favourably; his mirrored right side is on the far right of the composite; his mirrored left side is on the far left of the composite. Image Source: right reading.

Are we divided between dominant and repressed, good and evil? Since Freud's time (and earlier), this idea has been as immensely popular as it is scientific. It almost seems as though science mapped its theories atop older, spiritual and religious lore. The latter suggests something deeper - that a facial imbalance is perhaps a window on an imbalance in the soul?  It is easy to see how a few research findings could circle apocryphal territory. And so they did for a 20th century clairvoyant, Saint Slava Sevrukova, who claimed to see Christ in a vision:
“I see the Son of God in His human incarnation on Earth. He is with a tunic. Slender and tall.  He has warm brown eyes, brown hair almost reaching the shoulders and a beard with a little reddish hue. His hands are soft and delicate. Noble traits. He is charismatic and captivatingly beautiful. The exact word is magnetic! Once you lay your eye on him you can’t stop watching him even for a moment.

I looked at him in detail. The two halves of his face were ideally symmetrical. No other human being is like that. The two sides of the human face are never completely the same.

Following the story of a person’s incarnations, I see that the shapes of the left side of the face is determined by the previous life of the soul. The right side is genetically inherited from the present parents. Jesus’s face was perfectly symmetrical—both sides absolutely the same.
You can put your own photo into the SymFace generator here and see what the left and right halves of your face look like when mirrored.

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1 comment:

  1. I think you would be interested in this study, which compared facial traits of gay and straight men, including on the matter of symmetry, using a much larger sample size then the study you referenced.