People with attractive faces are often seen as more trustworthy, socially competent, better adjusted, and more capable in school and work. The correlation of attractiveness and positive character traits leads to a “beautiful is good” stereotype. However, little has been understood about the behavioral and neural responses to those with facial abnormalities, such as scars, skin cancers, birthmarks, and other disfigurements. A new study led by Penn Medicine researchers, which published in Scientific Reports, uncovered an automatic “disfigured is bad” bias that also exists in contrast to “beautiful is good.”
“Judgements on attractiveness and trustworthiness are consistent across cultures, and these assumptions based on facial beauty are made extremely quickly. On the other hand, people with facial disfigurement are often targets of discrimination, which seems to extend beyond the specific effects of lower overall attractiveness and may tie in more with the pattern of results with stigmatized groups,” says the study’s lead author Anjan Chatterjee, a professor of neurology, and director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. “In order to right any discrimination, the first step is to understand how and why such biases exist, which is why we set out to uncover the neural responses to disfigured faces.”
The researchers set out to evaluate the behavioral and brain reactions to disfigured faces and investigate whether surgical treatment mitigates these responses. In two experiments, the researchers used a set of photographs of patients with different types of facial anomalies, before and after surgical treatment, to test whether people harbor a “disfigured is bad” bias and to measure neural responses.
Read more at Penn Medicine News.