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:


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