The weather’s been astoundingly beautiful here for the last week. 70s and cloudless during the day, high 60s in the evening — like New England summer nights. Back east, it’s been snowing and more is expected. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back :). It’s just too nice wearing shorts, throwing disc (and just sitting around! :), and keeping my windows open at night.
A long time ago I signed up for the CD settlement thing that claimed that the major music manufacturers were inflating prices. Well, just recently I got a check for $13.86: my share of the settlement. It’s cool when random stuff like that happens.
It was a strange thing: a little while ago, within a six-hour span, I got emails from my friends John (teaching in China) and Marianne (back in Sweden), neither of whom I had heard from in a while (mostly my fault!). What’s interesting is that while I knew each of them in very different contexts (John: high school, Marianne: IHouse), our friendships were such that they both saw sides of me that most people don’t. So I always end up emailing them when I’m depressed :)… It’s amazing that they actually put up with that crap. They’re wonderful friends, and reading their emails made me very happy.
I’m in the process of trying to design an algorithm to do a certain thing for my research project. This involves me sitting around a lot and daydreaming, er, thinking hard. Actually it really is mostly daydreaming, due to my (legendary) inability to concentrate. Some of this daydreaming involved the “do nice people look nice” problem I brought up a couple of entries ago.
This question has been rattling around in my brain for about a year now, actually. When I was living in IHouse, I saw a lot of faces, some many times, and never met many of the people behind those faces. It really felt like I could tell which of those people were actually nice, and which weren’t, just based on how they looked. I have no idea how accurate I was, though.
For all of these questions, imagine only the person’s face, nothing else. For a rough definition of “nice”, use “considerate of others”.
Do nice people (tend to) look nice?
Do mean people (tend to) look mean?
Do nice-looking people tend to be nice? (question also suggested by Ryan)
Do athletic (coordinated) people (tend to) look athletic?
Do smart people (tend to) look smart?
What other qualities are discernible, if any?
These questions could all be tested by a simple experiment. Take the people in the CS department here, have their acquaintances rate them in these dimensions, and then post their mugshots online and let random people rate them. Compare the two.
If there are any such correlations, why are we able to discern them?
Is it because of the way people choose to present themselves?
Is it because of obvious physiological cues — for instance, do nice people smile more often when they’re walking around?
– If so, are nice people happier than mean people? Or just more prone to smile?
Are we duped into thinking people are nice by conflating niceness with cuteness or beauty? (i.e. What does “look nice” really mean, exactly?)
Might there really just be a link between personality and phenotype? That is, do nice people actually just look different, even with a neutral facial expression, from mean people? I can’t think of any other examples of this, but it would be fascinating if true.
There are a ton of different angles you can take on this, and I won’t bore you with any more.
I’d love to hear anecdotes and thoughts about all of this, though.
[This whole idea ties into a deeper question that I’ve been considering recently, which is whether there is an evolutionary basis for why we like or dislike people based on certain characteristics that you’d think wouldn’t seriously affect the success (in an evolutionary sense) of future interactions, like arrogance or sense of humor.
Specifically, in this case, I’m wondering why occasionally I form an opinion very rapidly after first meeting someone, perhaps within five minutes or less. It sounds awfully close-minded, but it happens. What cues am I picking up? … which is why it would make a lot of sense if I happen to read a lot into the way people look. If it turns out that I am accurate in these assessments, then great. If not, then I better (forcefully) rethink the way I interact with other people.]
Looking back, this is an incredibly dry entry, and probably really boring for people who, well, aren’t me. But much better to raise this stuff on LJ, where you can skim or skip it, than in conversation, when you just might decide that I “look” boring :).