October 18, 2018
Images of beautiful people are everywhere. From our Instagram feeds, to the shows we watch, to the magazines we read, we are surrounded by perfect skin, flawless features, and radiant smiles. Of course it's mostly illusion -- professional makeup, retouched photos and digital enhancement are the norm. By changing the standards of beauty, do we change how we see ourselves? Em Ford challenged us to discover whether today's 'beauty standards' are to blame for the way we see and feel about ourselves.
ACN designed a novel experiment to explore just how the brain responds to images that weren’t conventionally ‘pretty.’ Dozens of normal women (that is, not models!) volunteered to join Em for the experiment. They came into the studio for a photo shoot before and after having their make-up professionally done.
Afterwards, their best photos were also digitally retouched for that true glamour shot!
Three volunteers then joined us at the Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging (BUCNI) where we measured their brains' response to these pictures using a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scanner.
We were able to demonstration that the ‘beauty standards’ portrayed by the beauty industry might have a damaging impact on mental health and the way we feel about ourselves. Specifically, our volunteers showed activity in a part of their brain called the 'amygdala' when viewing the unrealistic (that is, made-up and digitally retouched) faces, that was similar to those seen in individuals with PTSD and anxiety disorders.