Over the years, plastic surgeons and other physicians and scientists interested in aesthetics have explored the “ideal proportions” of the human face and its features. This has led to myriad schemes for classifying facial types, suggesting courses of treatment, and even planning surgical modifications. More recently, we have begun to focus on facial recognition – using experimental psychology techniques to find out exactly how people recognize each other or assign certain faces to particular groups (e.g., age groups, ethnicities, etc.). Out of this inquiry has come an interesting body of literature regarding facial features that the brain uses as shorthand for gender – how a person can decide on the gender of a face after seeing a single image flashed on a screen for less than a second. This work has determined that the ridge of the brow plays an important role, as well as the prominence of the jaw.
Of all the obsessive publicity and incessant attention surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton, the most interesting item I’ve seen recently was about the Duchess of Cambridge’s nose. Apparently, according to the Transform Cosmetic Surgery Group, her nose was the most popular celebrity lookalike feature in the United Kingdom for 2012 (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/12/kate-middletons-nose-wins-acclaim-and-envy/). The timing is curious since only a few weeks later the unveiling of the official portrait of Kate was met with widespread disappointment (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260655/Kate-Middleton-Rotten-official-portrait-Duchess-Cambridge-artist-Paul-Emsley-unveiled.html). To my eye, the portrait looks quite accurate in terms of facial proportions, coloring, and even expression . . . yet somehow it is not beautiful. Much more could be said on this topic, but we’ll leave that for another day.