29 August 2007
On the cool side of tepid
The lovely Megan McArdle says I'm not as hot as I think I am.
Not me specifically, I hasten to add; most of us are actually like this, though we don't realize it. The explanation:
When we look at ourselves in the mirror, in any given session we tend to anchor on the time slice image that makes us look our best. That, we decide, is the "real" us.
Photographs, however, are a random sample of the various arrangements of light, angle, and facial expression that we can be found in. The median photograph of you is probably the best approximation of your physical attractiveness. But that wars with your self image, which is anchored on other, better combinations.
I don't photograph well at all ask the Department of Public Safety but every day I pass by a full-length mirror, and seldom am I enthralled at what I see therein.
Not that anyone will echo these sentiments back to me:
You're also biased by the fact that no one ever tells you you're ugly. It's not merely that people inflate what they tell you (they almost certainly do); it's also that people who think you're ugly tend to drop out of the sample. They may not cultivate an acquaintance with you, and those that do will probably not spontaneously let you know that they find you kind of repulsive. You're stuck in a web of cognitive biases and a positive feedback loop.
There have been people who told me I was ugly, but it was generally in the context of "and your mama dresses you funny," which tends to dilute the pejorative, if only because it's an established fact that if anyone dresses me funny, c'est moi.
But just when I was starting to feel better, in comes this volley:
[T]he best gauge of how attractive you are: how attractive are the hottest people who want to go out with you? They're probably only slightly more attractive than you are.
And, well, how should I evaluate an empty set?Posted at 6:29 AM to Table for One