The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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


This post just depressed me *sigh*

Posted by: GreenCanary at 9:15 AM on 29 August 2007

[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.

Unless you have a lot of money.

Posted by: sya at 9:44 AM on 29 August 2007

More precisely, financial attractiveness may offset shortcomings in other realms of attractiveness.

Posted by: triticale at 9:54 AM on 29 August 2007

how attractive are the hottest people who want to go out with you?

Given that in my case they would have to be the type to want to run around with a married man, any definition of attractiveness that included overall character would have to find them lacking.

Posted by: McGehee at 3:31 PM on 29 August 2007

Overalls have character. Just ask the late Junior Samples. (Oh, I guess you can't, can you?)

Posted by: CGHill at 5:49 PM on 29 August 2007

*sigh* indeed - at this point McArdle just writes for the sake of writing. She's run out of worthwhile things to say. I suggest, when it comes to that point, that writers should content themselves to commenting on Charles' blog.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 10:38 PM on 29 August 2007

Just ask the late Junior Samples. (Oh, I guess you can't, can you?)

Not yet, and hopefully not for another several years.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:27 AM on 30 August 2007

She's run out of worthwhile things to say. I suggest, when it comes to that point, that writers should content themselves to commenting on Charles' blog.

It's worked for me so far.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:28 AM on 30 August 2007

I agree with GreenCanary. That was one of the most depressing things I've read in awhile. I don't think I'll be able to pull the covers back from over my head tomorrow morning.

Posted by: Sarah at 10:02 PM on 30 August 2007