Camera Obscura and The International Facial Attractiveness Study

A visit to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions got a whole lot more academic this week as the team from The University of Edinburgh’s Psychology Department moved in. For the first time ever, visitors to Camera Obscura are being given the opportunity to participate in an international research study that measures what you think is attractive, across different cultures.

example of study pic

Which face are you most attracted to?



This is an international project, led by Dr Barnaby Dixson, a Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Across the world, in 25 different locations, similar research is being carried out by local universities. Here in Edinburgh the study is being run by The University of Edinburgh, Dr David Carmel and seven student volunteers.


The scientific community has already amassed a lot of research on face perception; pareidolia, infant recognition, symmetry, the golden ratio. Despite all of this research we know very little about how people’s perceptions of attractiveness vary across cultures.


pareidolia 2

Pareidolia, for example, is seeing faces in inanimate objects! Which pepper do you like better?

“This study aims to explore what determines our attractiveness judgments of the opposite sex.”By collecting data from many people that represent a wide variety of cultures it is hoped that the study can look at the similarities and differences in facial attractiveness across these cultures.


Every afternoon for the next 3 weeks the students will be collecting data at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. Come and take part!


Because it’s so interesting!

But, seriously; “The aim of this research is to quantify the facial characteristics that men and women find most physically attractive.” 2

This is such interesting stuff because being able to tell what people find attractive tells us a lot about why evolution may have favored these characteristics. This may give us a reason behind our love of a chiseled jaw line or blue eyes or chubby cheeks, or whatever it is you are into!


Taking part in this study is really easy. You look at a series of faces and select the one that you find most attractive.

The research has been going for three days and, with over 40 participants so far, is proving to be a popular addition to our exhibition area!

For more information please contact:

Dr. David Carmel from The University of Edinburgh | 0131 650 3455 |

Alyce Paton from Camera Obscura and World of Illusions | 0131 226 3709 |


Written by Alyce Paton.


1 & 2:,d.ZGU&psig=AFQjCNEVHPuHsWNjADmClwjyrPeazL_84A&ust=1393066141430771


Box with Face:


Why You Should Bring a Date to Camera Obscura This Valentine’s Day

Flowers and chocolates are so 2013. Make your Valentine crazy about you with a date to Camera Obscura – or find out if they’re really the person you want to spend the day with…

How hot is your date? Find out – literally – with the thermal camera.

New Thermal Cam

What will your kids look like? Decide if you never want this person’s babies by merging into each other on the Swap Heads or Face Transformers exhibits. You can also use the morph machines to find out if you’ll still fancy your date when they’re old and wrinkly.

Morph Machine

The Vortex. Send them head over heels (almost) with the help of the Vortex Tunnel. They just might think it’s you that’s put their head in a spin.

mtb world cup

Put stars in their eyes… with the Light Painter. Or be like love-struck teenagers, and scribble your initials together inside a heart – just to make those with a weak stomach after the Vortex even queasier.

Lightpainter at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Forget star-gazing. Stare into infinity (kind of) together.

Infinity Corridor

Make him feel like the tallest man in the (Ames) room.

Ames Room

Get a hug. There are tons of creepy holograms and bugs under microscopes that you can pretend to be/actually be scared of, as well as the height of the rooftop.

Spider Hologram

Make like Leo and Kate with Titanic moves on the rooftop.

(No one would pose for a photo for this!!)

No likey, no lighty! Sparks will fly in the electricity room. Have your date touch the plasma dome with one hand and hold yours with the other. Put your other hand on the fluorescent tube to turn the light on.

Plasma Dome

Autowed. See if his/her intentions are true by confronting them with Autowed. For just £1, this machine will spit out a marriage certificate and two rings to bind you (not-at-all-lawfully) in marriage. If you’re already married, you can renew your vows.


Musical Stairs. Serenade your date with a tune on the stairs… or make sweet music together.

Greg Macvean

And what if it turns out to be a truly awful date? Lose them in the mirror maze!

Mirror Maze

We hope to see you here with your date this Valentine’s Day!

Written by Lauren Robertson