Thursday, 10 May 2012

What body obsessive people see in famous faces

Jennifer Anniston image courtesy of Angela George at
What do you see when you look at other people’s faces? Do you focus on a specific feature or do you look at their face as a whole?  Do you think you could recognise people’s faces when they are upside-down?

Individuals with BDD are more likely to identify upside-down images of famous faces as they focus on individual features rather than process them as a whole.

New research by Professor Keith Laws from the School of Psychology has shown that people who have an obsession relating to their body image, where they believe that they have a defect in their appearance, have an exceptional skill of recognising famous faces when they are upside-down.

Most people find it difficult to recognise upside-down faces because they normally process faces as a whole image the right way up.  But people with a mental health condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) process faces in a different way and overly-focus on the individual facial features rather than the whole face. This aids their ability to recognise inverted famous faces as they are more intimate with specific facial features such as David Beckham’s eyes or Angelina Jolie’s lips for example.

People with BDD are often attractive individuals who focus negatively on specific features of their own body, especially their face.  They engage with time-consuming compulsive behaviours such as mirror-checking, applying make-up to camouflage and seeking reassurance about their appearance - up to fifteen per cent of people who seek cosmetic surgery meet the criteria for a BDD diagnosis.

The paper will be published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

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