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Our two faces August 9, 2016

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Questions.
Tags: , , , , ,

When I was working on my last post on the arrest of the Mayor of Fairfax, I pulled a picture of him off the interwebs.  As I was looking at it, I noticed that his expression was pretty asymmetrical.

Scott SilverthorneNow I’m not just picking on Scott Silverthorne here, this is often true about a lot of people.  We often seem to have two different expressions at the same time, one on each side.  But this photo seemed to be a good example.  Let’s take a closer look.

When you take an image, and mirror one side or the other to create a whole face you can see this better.  Here’s an example where someone has reflected a famous photo of Lincoln:

lincoln reflected

Wow.  Lincoln’s face was so asymmetrical that this looks like two different people.  But you can also see that the two sides have slightly different expressions.

So I got out my high-tech image editing software (powerpoint) and tried reflecting the image of Silverthorne to see what I got.

Right side reflected

Right side reflected

Left side reflected

Left side reflected

So ignore the different widths of the face, since that’s just an artifact from the way his head was angled.

If you look at the left side of his face, he’s smiling.  Not a sincere smile, there’s nothing happy in his eyes.  He’s just making a smile with his mouth, like you might do when someone tells you to “say cheese”.  Now on the right side of his face, there’s no smile at all.  He’s just kind of angrily glowering at the world.

I know that each side of the face is controlled by one side of the brain.  So I’m wondering if this effect comes from the two sides actually expressing different emotions, or whether it’s just a random function of the way our facial nerves are wired, or maybe something else?  He’s had neck cancer, so it could be nerve damage from that and not emotional at all.

If there’s any neurology expert types out there, can you chime in on why this happens?

As an extra note, as I was looking for images for this post, I found lots of reflections of famous Hollywood types.  Like this:

keira reflected

And they were very consistently so symmetrical that there was almost no difference between the original and the reflections.  I know facial symmetry is a mark of beauty, but I also expect that the original photos had been doctored with photoshop specifically to eliminate asymmetries.  


1. Quixie - August 9, 2016

According to what I know about body language this half smile/half frown is indicative of conflicting emotions. I also see contempt in his face. http://www.bodylanguagesuccess.com/2012/03/nonverbal-communication-secret-1450.html?m=1

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2. makagutu - August 10, 2016

He looks like two different people even adjusting for the widths of the two images.
Why do you think we find beauty in symmetry? Even buildings that are symmetrical strike us as beautiful.

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Ubi Dubium - August 10, 2016

Not sure, but I’ve seen discussion that people who are healthy tend to have more symmetrical faces, so perhaps we’ve developed the preference as a marker for a desirable trait in a mate. Not sure why that would spill over into liking symmetry in buildings, though. Brains are weird.


makagutu - August 10, 2016

I think that could explain part of it

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