Perfect Strangers

The University of Pennsylvania is one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. Founded by Benjamin Franklin right here in my hometown, many of their graduates go on to become titans of industry.

Their in-house scientists, however, become masters of the obvious.

A new study, led by scientists at Penn Medicine, seeks to understand our brain’s response to people with facial abnormalities, such as scars, birthmarks, dysplasia and other “deformities.” Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, show an inherent bias against the “disfigured” and innate preference for the conventionally attractive.

You know, I could have come to this conclusion in thirty-five seconds for a third of the stipend these “scientists” received. Of course, I would have used said stipend to attend nudie bars for a month. You know, for research purposes.

Previous neuroimaging studies have shown that attractive faces trigger more substantial responses in the reward, empathy, and social cognition sectors of the brain, compared to readings taken from more average faces. This study digs deeper by focusing on disfigured faces and analyzing whether surgical solutions mitigate the negative response.

“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,” Chatterjee says.

The biases exist because people – not just here, but across the globe – learn at an early age their community’s definition of beauty. Usually, but not always, those men and women filter their choices through that particular prism. For example, fat people like me are usually seen as unattractive, and I am getting really tired of being hit with tomatoes.