The Best Part of Having An ‘Average’ Face


The average face of female residents of Sydney, Australia, depicted by the artist Mike Mike. (Image created by Mike Mike |

While it’s human nature to marvel at a beautiful face, science says we may not exactly view the characteristics of pretty people in the most glowing light.

According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, having a “typical” face has its benefits, as people seem to consider the faces of Average Joes and Plain Janes the most trustworthy.

To conduct the study, researchers digitally combined the faces of 92 different women to get a sum of parts: a “typical” face. They also conjured up an “attractive” face by averaging the faces of the 12 most attractive women in another set of photos.


The typical face was found to be more trustworthy than those on the opposite sides of the spectrum. (Carmel Sofer | Psychological Science)

After creating these digital images, they joined the “typical” face and “attractive” face into one, and then created nine more images varying in levels of attractiveness and typicality. The final outcome? A total of 11 faces, which were laid out along a spectrum from least attractive to most attractive, with the “typical” face smack dab in the middle.

To nix gender bias, the researchers had only women rate the faces on a 9-point scale for trustworthiness or attractiveness. Over the course of the study, they wound up rating each separate face a total of three times.


The average face lies at the intersection of trustworthiness and attractiveness. (Carmel Sofer | Psychological Science)

The scientists found that the results revealed something of a “U-shape” correlation between trustworthiness and attractiveness; the closer an image was to the “typical” face in the middle of the spectrum, the more trustworthy the women rated it. Attractiveness, on the other hand, had nothing to do with typicality. As expected, moving beyond the central image and up the spectrum, the participants rated each face as more and more attractive.

So, why would we trust someone with a “typical” face? It’s simple: generally, we’re comfortable with what we know and recognize, while we fear the unknown.

“Face typicality likely indicates familiarity and cultural affiliation — as such, these findings have important implications for understanding social perception, including cross-cultural perceptions and interactions,” says lead researcher Carmel Sofer, a psychological scientist at Princeton University and Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, in a press release.

With all the science on the potential benefits of being beautiful — higher pay, better health, the list goes on — at least we know beautiful people don’t have it all.

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