Tisdale - August 2, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire
I was doing some work on a web page and shot a picture of the owner of a business. I had taken the picture in natural light and in a candid manner and discovered that the subject might look better smiling. The conceit of manipulation took over and I decided to give the guy a bit of a smile and perhaps widen his eyes. In just a few moments my picture had the sort of up look I was looking for but was not at all the same person. By widening the eyes I changed the geometry of the face, It was no longer a resemblance to the
the individual and of course would not do. The original is seen on the right, my doctored version is on the left. The important point is that subtle, almost trivial changes to a face change it dramatically or, change our interpretation of that face.
Neurologists and psychologists have long known that a rather huge amount of memory and analytical brain power is devoted to human faces in all people. This research came about largely by accident with people suffering from brain damage or surgery for life threatening seizures, where portions of the brain are disconnected or removed.

Humans are extremely communicative beings, so much so that it is instinctually a part of every person to smile, when an infant baby smiles he or she does not have gas, their imprinted internal programming has kicked in and that curl of the lips and tightening of the eye area is designed to demonstrate, to who ever is looking, that this new individual is pleased.

We have also a huge set of predetermined and well established responses to other human faces and even to facial types. The picture at the top of the page and Twila's charming face have the characteristics that all of us are preprogrammed to recognise as pleasing. The button nose of a baby and the soft texture, are baby like features. Humans are programmed to respond to these facial features to insure that we look after our children and in grown, or growing adults, we recognise these attributes as beauty.

What is really surprising is that you, or anyone, can look at a face or even a picture of a face, and attribute to that person
character traits. This is based on two powerful forces, the preprogramming to which I have already referred and the transfer of characteristics from one person to another. Because we have experienced specific behaviours with one individual who looks a specific way, we are "learning" individual beings, and we accept that experience, and apply what we have learned to others we meet, who have similar characteristics.

Of course human sexuality comes into play and as you will notice in this article, I will illustrated my points with far more female faces then male ones. Simply because of the way my own specific biological makeup is constructed and that comes through in my interpretation of the faces I see. As a heterosexual male, I am programmed both before and since birth, to respond positively to female characteristics. The first face I saw was female and that face provided and looked after me in every way and I will not ever forget that face and what it means to me, so is it with us all.
This boy is Taltan, an aboriginal nation in North Western British Columbia, but without knowing that, you would still have looked at these pictures and been impressed with his charm and good features. The reason is so simple and is that we humans are all one species and racial differences are remarkably insignificant. His smile, his desire to appear pleasant, would be recognised anywhere on the planet.

It has been fifteen or more years since I have seen either these pictures, or this girl, since the image was in a negative file and no positive prints had been made of them. When her face appeared on my screen, I laughed out loud with the pleasure of seeing this fifteen year old, who indeed now would be thirty.

She was not an enthusiastic student, but because her principal treated her with kindness and concern, she was always so willing to please me and always greeting me with this wonderful smile. One day, she and another girl skipped classes and played hooky. They were brought to the office and I listened to their story and was completely charmed by them. As they left the office, my secretary who knew well that I was not doing these girls any service by not getting after them, for she knew well the value of education, and she herself was Ojibwa, gave this girl and her companion a serious talking to, pointing out, that their smiles and coy looks, would not impress her.

After my secretary had done the duty I should have performed, she expressed her concern to me, that these girls were pulling one on me and I had to agree, because both they and I wanted them to. I was quite aware that this girl was not destine for extended academic work at this time in her life and wanted her experience at school to be positive and if she could positively use her human manipulation skills, that was fine with me.

It was a couple of years later, that I met and read the work of Robert Sternberg, who established three distinct kinds of modifiable intelligence. Cognitive calculation and analysis, reasoning and recombinative ability and the most interesting one, the ability to deal with and handle other human beings. This face above, was well on her way to mastering the third form of effective intelligence.

The looks of a movie star. At fifteen this young woman was already an accomplished actress, playing adult parts in what ever drama production she could. She was aware of her appearance and the affect it had on others.

Beauty is a real thing, it consists of two important elements. The first and least important, is to have average features and a well balanced symmetrical face. Recent studies conflict on this point. One large study found that people who go into the entertainment industry have balanced features (left is the mirror of right). But a recent British study did not come to the same conclusions, so it would appear that more study on this one is needed.

The most important factor that makes a person beautiful is that they perceive themselves as attractive. Parents who praise their children and significant others who reinforce the child's belief, the child will respond by acting and playing close attention to their appearance. But more importantly to the way they present themselves, their body language, posture and poise will reflect their positive image they have of themselves. You don't need to see four images of this girl side by side to agree with her parents.
We have been trained from the most early time in our life to read the faces of people around us. Communication experts report that 75% of all communications is none verbal. Facial movements and expressions are so subtle and complex that people who miss this training are communication cripples all of their lives. Autism is a dysfunctional condition that prevents the child from gaining these skills and here is the cruncher. Facial communication is extraordinarily localised and is culturally based.

This face is that of a Kaska girl and though her smile is easy to read, we should not go further then there, as it takes a lifetime to master the expressions of the people closest to us. For this 75% reason, marriage counsellors will tell you to marry close to home and within your own cultural heritage. Otherwise, spousal communications will be far more complicated and require far more effort then most people are willing, or able to commit. Much of the life together of people from mixed cultural or geographical locations, is spent explaining what they mean by this or that.

We attach so much importance to faces that much of our memory system is involved in keeping them straight and even updating them and altering them to suit the aging process. The last time I saw this young woman she was four years after these pictures were taken. Looking at them now, I can hear the sound of her voice and visualise her as her appearance had changed, as she grew into a woman. Such power is encapsulated in a person's face and our memory of that face.

These wonderful faces were students of Watson Lake High School (Yukon) in 1982-83. The picture above was assembled from portraits taken at the time and presented here. Watson Lake is a truly integrated and multicultural community students in that community can be Kaska, Taltan, Chinese, European and every combination of those. One girl not shown in this picture found life in a non-aboriginal community difficult as her mother was Ojibwa and her father English. Because of the problems there she went to live with her aunt on a Saulteaux reserve in Manitoba but was mistreated as a "white" girl and came to Watson Lake where she found she was accepted and felt at home.