back to article Beauty is in the AI of the beholder: Young blokes teach computer to judge women by their looks

Chinese researchers claim to have taken facial recognition to the next level – by predicting the personality traits of women from their photos alone. Or rather, given the labels on the training data, predicting the personality traits young guys expect women to have from their looks alone. Undeterred by all the flak they …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "pretentious, pompous, arrogant, shallow, frivolous"

    Is this talking about the researchers?

    1. Zot

      Re: "pretentious, pompous, arrogant, shallow, frivolous"

      Naaa, that's Facebook's modus operandi.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it could provide a useful function?

    Before being thumbed down, I merely point out it could work out if the person at a job interview was a bigoted dick, liable to be a source of future sexual harassment actions:

    Naturalness is highlighted as a traditional aesthetic preference in Chinese culture, a societal beauty standard reflected in the results and choices made by the Chinese students.

    The neural network only predicts how young Chinese men will judge a woman’s personality traits based on how much makeup she appears to wear

    1. macjules

      Re: So it could provide a useful function?

      You could well be talking about the next Social Media hit. Don't forget that Facebook (Facemash as it was known then) started life as a 'hot or not' site.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see the benefits.

    Prepare for interview.

    Take own photo.

    Computer: "You look arrogant."

    Change the way you look.

    Yes, it's dumb that job interviews judge people on their appearance, but while that's the situation it's fair to exploit the advantage of this AI to preempt prejudices.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: I can see the benefits.

      Computer: "You look arrogant."

      Me: Of course I do, you useless piece of silicon shit. I hold the power of life and death over you."

      Computer: "I'm only trying to help." *bzzzz*

      Me: *dropping yanked power cable* "Don't fucking talk back to me"

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I can see the benefits.

      And how does this differ from today?

      I have been coached by people once upon a time and I have coached people too on how to adjust their body language to improve their chances in an interview as well as what not to do.

      Here is an example of what not to do. Legs are above chest level when seated and she is holding leg up in hand mid-interview. The only thing that screams "arrogant s/d of a b" more than that is to hold your arms/hands behind your head while talking.

      Like it or not looks and body language are important. Though most of it usually not static stuff - you cannot judge stuff like that from a single picture, especially a passport style mugshot. In fact face alone is insufficient - you have to observe the person for a while to pick up things like this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And how does this differ from today?

        It only differs by the level of automation.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: I can see the benefits.

        Interesting how you included a link to a picture of Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) - not only does she have an unapproachable pose but when combined with a moderate amount of research or recollection about Theranos one then projects defensive traits to this as well. Possibly because Theranos is a company built on lies, lies and more lies and therefore she's been forced to defend herself repeatedly.

      3. CCCP

        Re: I can see the benefits.

        @ Voland's...

        When you said "legs are above chest level...", I had a completely different picture in my mind and was wondering what kind of job it was for...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Says more about young Chinese men than the women

    The most obvious thing that struck me about the S- group is that the pictures were deliberately posed and shot to look dramatic and challenging. The same women wearing natural-looking makeup and posed demurely would probably have been put in S+. ISTM that if this "research" proves anything it's that young Chinese men find women they believe to be assertive threatening, and that they're daft and inexperienced enough to think they can infer personality from appearance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Says more about young Chinese men than the women

      Well, you can go on about all that, but I think you're right that it says more about the men. Every "woman" appears to be a teenager.

      Outside of this, I wonder if they could create an app to do the same for a webpage. For instance... : Old_ : Sneaky+

    2. Tikimon

      Re: Says more about young Chinese men than the women

      And is it just me, or do the S+ cohort look like they're 14-16 years old, and the S- cohort about 20-25? The S+ poses look literally more wide-eyed naive as well. The S- women seem older, more confident, and kinda like they're sizing you up.

      Full disclosure: looking at the S+ girls makes me feel like a dirty old pedo, where the S- women are smoking hot. But then I'm not a young Chinese guy terrified by assertive women, as another poster said.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Re: Says more about young Chinese men than the women

        My reaction was similar: they're all attractive, but the top group looks younger.

        OTOH I prefer strong women and also closer to my age than my daughter's.

  5. frank ly

    "... a convoluted neural network ..."

    That would be 'convolved' or 'convolutional'. The word 'convoluted' has use in everyday language (and biology) to mean something different from the mathematical processes of convolution.

    1. Disk0

      Re: "... a convoluted neural network ..."

      Who says it isn't though?

      Convoluted, that is, given the warped world view of the operators and the resulting broken way the network processes imagery in order to estimate likelyhood of likeness to the eye of some Chinese nerds...

      Mine's the one with the copy of "Bluff your way into AI" in the side pocket...

  6. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Simple defination of the results - wears lipstick = tart.

    Might work for the Chinese, not for the rest of the world. Next please.

  7. Dr Scrum Master

    Already happens

    There are local witch doctors here who'll judge candidates' fit on their features.

    Which superstitious tribal backwater is this? Singapore.

    Watch out for Japanese judging candidates on their blood type...

  8. Joe Werner Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Shocking news

    Dudes use overly complex method to determine contrast and colour saturation


    (icon because of saturation and contrast)

  9. Anonymous Coward


    You've proven that systems can reflect the biases of those who have a role in configuring or validating inputs into said system.

    In other news, another sample of young men describe grass as "rather greenish".

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Congratulations!

      "You've proven that systems can reflect the biases of those who have a role in configuring or validating inputs into said system."

      So it is "Machine Learning" then; they're just learning from idiots.

      Unfortunately humans can sometimes learn from idiots by adopting an "I'm not going to be an idiot like that guy" mode whereas machines that are taught by idiots will be idiots...

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Re: Congratulations!

        Thus do we teach our machines confirmation bias.

  10. Bruce Ordway

    a curiosity

    >> how male graduates expect her to act.

    Boys will be boys...

    I've previously seen sites where you can rate women by photos.

    I imagine there will be an app someday if there isn't already.

    1. WhatsData2U

      Re: a curiosity, indeed

      Boys may be boys. They sure didn't try to use boys as their test sampling, did they? Why not? A few guesses here...

  11. Vince Lewis 1

    System not working as expected

    Researcher_1: "I've run through with the new parameters, 999 were assigned to group 1 and only one was assigned to group 2"

    Researcher_2: "What's the new parameters?"

    Researcher_1: "Would they Talk to me"

    Researcher_2: "Harsh, Still using your Mum's picture in the data set?"

    Researcher_1: "Yes, but she wasn't the positive"

    Researcher_2: "Who was?"

    Researcher_1: "The head of HR"

    Researcher_2: "Ooo, Looks like you've got mail. What does it say?"

    Researcher_1: "Its from the head of HR, wants to see me in her office to explain why I've been photographing the campus females"

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AISIAFF and Miles Deep

    Imagine what a mashup of these two AIs could accomplish...

  13. tfewster

    Perfectly possible

    "...the idea of judging personality traits from physical attractiveness – a rather subjective measure – is objectionable and likely impossible."

    My theory is that good looking people don't have to try as hard to make friends, so don't have to develop a nice personality. It may be an objectionable generalisation, subject to bias, and foolish to pre-judge people with, but I find it's usually right.

    1. Disk0

      Re: Perfectly possible

      Whereas us uggies know all too well how conceited, backhanded and vile the ablist, nice-looking people with good teeth are, giving rise to a healthy level of cynicism and distrust, and an arguably justified hostile attitude towards people in general for being patronizing dicks to anyone who does not fit in a Benneton commercial. But that could just be the booze talking at this point.

  14. Mark 85

    Needs a second test run here....

    Put the researchers and the 22 lads (only 22 of them... some input sample, eh?) and have the women judge them. Maybe add a few more pictures of various government officials?

    Icon ---> I feel like being an evil bastard at the moment.

  15. Colin Millar

    You may sneer

    But this "research" project has its uses.

    The manufacturers of blow-up sex dolls will surely pay for this insight.

  16. find users who cut cat tail


    Please stop saying papers were ‘published by arXiv’ which sounds like someone actually published the thing. While, in fact, the paper was uploaded to arXiv [by the authors] or perhaps made available in arXiv [by the authors].

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: arXiv

      @find users who cut cat tail

      Congratulations on having your post published by The Register. :)

      1. Fred Fallacy

        Re: arXiv

        Please stop saying comments were ‘published by The Register’ which sounds like someone actually published the thing. While, in fact, the comment was uploaded to The Register [by the authors] or perhaps made available in The Register [by the authors].

    2. WhatsData2U

      Re: arXiv

      ...because legitimate publications rejected it based on too many biases. (Hope you don't mind me amending your statement. :-)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deeply Flawed article

    The article starts with: "Chinese researchers claim to have taken facial recognition to the next level – by predicting the personality traits of women from their photos alone."

    However, both the title of the paper and the extracts included in article do not support this assertion:

    The title "Automated Inference on Sociopsychological Impressions of Attractive Female Faces" actually says what the paper is really about: an automated system that mimics what people do.

    The extracts also support this:

    "A non-acquaintance female face can be judged unanimously as being physically beautiful, and yet different observers may associate this face with approval or disapproval connotations, using labels (or stereotypes) like pure, sweet, endearing, innocent, cute, on one hand, or indifferent, pretentious, pompous, arrogant, shallow, frivolous, coquettish, on the other," the paper states.

    "As these labels are loosely binary quantization of social attributes of trustworthiness, dominance, innocence, and introvert-extrovert, here is another case for the old, cross-culture belief that facial appearances are symptoms of innate traits and behavioral propensity."

    Both extracts are referring to how people make an association between appearance and personality; nowhere are they claiming that these associations are correct.

    It would have been an interesting story if hadn't been so badly misrepresented.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deeply Flawed article

      Silence, you're interrupting peoples uninformed outrage!

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Deeply Flawed article

      Flaws aade absolutly clear by the final paragraph, in which the author fails to recognise that an AI system which mimics popular stereotypes might have a value in mimicing popular stereotypes.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Re: Deeply Flawed article

        *wince* mimicking.

  18. x 7

    I think the S+ group equates to those who look like they'll screw on the first date, and the S- those who won't.

    Amusing that the photos are all of women who are easy on the eye. Would have been a far better test if some of the photos had been of the "only with beer goggles" or "not even with your barge pole" variety.

    An even better test would have been to get the Chinese students to try to assess faces they're not familiar with - a bunch of white women maybe, or black africans. To take it even further, it would be interesting to see how the effect of alcohol affects the judgement: make them reassess the same girls while drunk

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think the S+ group equates to those who look like they'll screw on the first date, and the S- those who won't.

      I know I am extremely shallow but the S- group looks to me like the ones who might have personalities and be fun to be around and the S+ look like tagalongs. Perhaps this too says something about the attitude of the researchers, or perhaps it's just me.

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "The researchers – Xiaolin Wu, Xi Zhang and Chang Liu, ..."

    ... really need to go out more.

    1. Mark 85

      They're probably "super geeks"... living in the basement of the uni and eating take-out from the campus food hall.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what i can see

    What I can see from the sample images is that girls that look 13 are preferred, s+, whereas ones that look 18+ are not, s-.

  21. TRT Silver badge

    Beauty is in the i7 of the beholder

  22. SVV


    "The researchers – Xiaolin Wu, Xi Zhang and Chang Liu, all from Shanghai Jiao Tong University – scoured Baidu’s search engine to collect 3,954 images of women"

    I can think of a better word than "researcher" for this. But I don't need to mention it, as they are clearly the saddest, shalllowest, most pathetic dweebs imaginable. A truly intelligent system would add a caption to the pictures that said "Judge all you want, you'll never find a girlfriend you pathetic moron".

  23. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Next up: AI for Retrophrenology!

    This is not going to hurt a bit. (Honest!)

    Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Terry Pratchett

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leaving the cursor-dipped-in-acid aside for a moment (however factually deserved it may or may not be), research like this is potentially useful for people not at the left end of The Spectrum, who may or may not be interested in aquiring "parsing faces" as a conscious skill.

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