London - The old maxim of never forgetting a pretty face might be untrue as psychologists believe beautiful people are less likely to be recognised.
A new study suggests that attractiveness can actually prevent the recognition of faces, unless a pretty face is particularly distinctive.
German psychologists think the recognition of pretty faces is distorted by emotions.
Scientists at the University of Jena, Germany, discovered that photos of unattractive people were more memorable than pretty ones when they showed them to a group of people.
However, people were able to easily remember a beautiful face with distinctive features, such as Angelina Jolie’s.
Researchers Holger Wiese, Carolin Altmann and Stefan Schweinberger from the university, wrote in their study: ‘We could show that the test subjects were more likely to remember unattractive faces than attractive ones, when the latter didn't have any particularly noticeable traits.’
For the study, which was published in science magazine Neuropsychologia, the psychologists showed photos of faces to test subjects.
Half of the faces were considered to be more attractive and the other half as less attractive - but all of them were being thought of as similarly distinctive looking.
The test subjects were shown the faces for just a few seconds to memorise them and were shown them again during the test so that they could decide if they recognised them or not.
The scientists were surprised by the result.
“Until now we assumed that it was generally easier to memorise faces, which are being perceived as attractive - just because we prefer looking at beautiful faces,” Dr Wiese said.
But the study showed that such a correlation cannot be easily sustained.
He assumes that remembering pretty faces is distorted by emotional influences, which enhance the sense of recognition at a later time.
The researchers’ idea is backed up by evidence from EEG-recordings which show the brain’s electric activity, which the scientists used during their experiment.
The study also revealed that in the case of attractive faces, considerably more false positive results were detected.
In other words, people thought they recognised a face without having seen it before.
“We obviously tend to believe that we recognise a face just because we find it attractive,” Dr Wiese said.
BUT A PRETTY FACE HELPS A SUCCESSFUL CAREER
A recent study found beautiful people do better in their careers – even after their youthful good looks have begun to fade.
At each career stage studied, pretty people held more prestigious jobs than plain Janes.
Researcher Gundi Knies, of Essex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, said good looking people may benefit from a “beauty premium”.
She added: “We found facial attractiveness is important in determining people’s occupational prestige at the beginning of the career as it is in the middle or at the end.”
The study tracked the career outcomes of more than 8,000 people and found the best looking were more successful throughout their whole lives.
“Or, in other words, the so called beauty premium is stable throughout people's employment history and pretty people are doing better even as they age.” - Daily Mail