The beauty of asymmetry: why your face isn’t supposed to be symmetrical

If you’ve ever been on TikTok, even for a few minutes, you’ll see the new trending obsession: teens are using the reverse filter to try to see themselves how others see them. But this trend, like so many others, has done more harm than good.

First of all, let me say that this trend really bothered me. As if TikTok hadn’t already exposed our insecurities enough or presented us with insecurities we didn’t even know we were “supposed to have”, this reverse filter trend came out of nowhere and took over the internet. Teenagers all over the world have unfortunately hit the “Try Filter” button at one point or another and, chances are, it only resulted in an emotional breakdown. But when did we unconsciously come to the conclusion that symmetrical means good and asymmetrical means bad? Well, no matter how we came to that conclusion, I’m happy to say it’s not true. And here are some examples of why.

Asymmetrical faces are easier to remember and more likely to be remembered.

A professor of psychology at the University of Bamberg, Claus-Christian Carbon, said: “If you have a very symmetrical face, which is very easy to process, then you have a problem: you will not be remembered so well… C It’s because we remember faces by their differences, by what distinguishes them from each other”.

This claim is supported by evidence conducted in 1996 which found that people with asymmetrical faces were considered more attractive than those with symmetrical faces. The study authors speculated that this may be because each person had slightly asymmetrical facial features, and participants may have been more attracted to “normal” faces with more asymmetry. To further prove that asymmetrical faces are easier to remember, sites like Echoism allow you to upload photos of yourself and find that the vast majority of the time your “imperfections” that cause the asymmetry are the features that make you beautiful.

On the contrary, if you apply the perfectly symmetrical face filter, it makes you look unreal and even inhuman; everyone, no matter how unwilling to admit it, has asymmetry and those with more asymmetry have been shown to be viewed as approachable and attractive.

A rather intense example of asymmetry is Thom Yorke, an English musician and lead singer and songwriter of the band Radiohead. His eyes are clearly uneven and different – but this is what sets him apart and makes it easy for others to identify him, which can help spread his image and increase his popularity. Carbon explained that we focus so much on his uneven eyes because they’re on the Y axis, or the vertical line from ear to ear that bisects our face, which means we’re more likely to see differences or unique traits more closely. eyes or nose rather than ears.

A less intense example of asymmetry is Meryl Streep; although many consider her to be symmetrical, if you look closely you can see that her nose is angled to the left and her mouth is slightly offset to the right. Nautilus commented, “The asymmetries make her face unique, help her stand out and add to her appeal”. These unique characteristics add to its image and help us recognize and remember it, even if our minds do so unconsciously.

Symmetrical faces are not instinctively attractive and asymmetrical faces are not instinctively unattractive.

One of the biggest problems on Tiktok is that many people automatically assume that if you have a symmetrical face, you should immediately be put on a pedestal and worshiped like a prophet. And sure, it might be cool if you have a symmetrical face – but that doesn’t mean you should retreat to your bedroom and live life like a hermit just because one of your eyes is a little too far to the right. In fact, many studies have shown that asymmetrical faces are considered more attractive than symmetrical faces.

A 1995 study showed that “faces made more symmetrical were perceived to be less attractive” and that this attractiveness correlated directly with facial features that most clearly showed asymmetrical faces. Likewise, symmetrical faces may have been seen as less attractive, “due to the reduction of natural directional asymmetries, perhaps making the faces appear emotionless”.

The human brain processes faces as a whole and does not focus on specific, individual parts.

Margaret Livingstone, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, discovered that the human brain is not hardwired to select individual parts of the face, but rather to see a face holistically. David Perrett, a professor in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at St. Andrews University, also found that holistic facial scanning occurs from left to right and is inherently asymmetrical. Perrett conducted a study in which he showed participants images of faces consisting of a male half-face on the left and a female half-face on the right. He found that the majority believed that faces were predominantly male, showing that the holistic scan of the brain itself is asymmetrical, spending more time processing the left side of the face than the right side. He explained to Nautilus that “the left side of our sensory space (what we see to our left) is initially processed primarily by the right side of our brain, where many more specialized facial recognition functions reside. The fusiform facial area of ​​the brain, for example, is thought to play a key role in facial recognition and is larger in the right hemisphere” and noted, “because we are busy processing one side at a time, we do not notice the left-right differences. This is good news for those of us who worry that others will immediately notice how asymmetrical our faces look when comparing our left side to our right side.

If you want to know more, check out these scientific articles: