Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digital Physiognomy

Last March, I wrote about a program for removing unsightly power lines from digital photos which I'd downloaded from Today, GOTD offered another of their more unusual software titles; Digital Physiognomy.

Physiognomy refers to the profiling of a person's character based on their facial features. In other words, contrary to the old proverb, physiognomy proposes that one can, indeed, judge a book by its cover. This pseudo-science apparently originated in India and spread from there to Iran, Rome, France, my computer and, finally this blog.

The program profiles character based on facial features. You compose a portrait by selecting facial characteristics (forehead shape and width, eye shape, nose position, ear type, hair, etc.), much like a police sketch artist. You're also given the ability to load digital portraits for reference, and even overlay them with the sketch to check accuracy. When you're finished, you have a sketch which hopefully bears a reasonable resemblance to the subject. The program then analyses this sketch and spits out a character profile.

Being a sucker for all things novel (did you know that my Star Wars name is Halan Steiz, and my hobbit name is Mungo Dogwood of Shadydowns?) not to mention all things free, I couldn't resist downloading the program and putting it through its paces.

I decided to make myself the program's guinea pig because, after all, who knows me better than I? I felt that it would be a good litmus test of the program's accuracy. Here's the self-portrait sketch that I came up with:

To begin with, although this is the closest likeness I could wring out of the program, I can't honestly say that it looks like me. Although it does reflect my features in a very general sense, the caricature that adorns my Blogger profile is a much better likeness than this. Nevertheless, here's what Digital Physiognomy has to say about The Halmanator, given the above sketch, with my own comments interspersed:

  • Bright extrovert is characterized by outgoingness, activity, and the ability to make quick decisions. He/she is often too talkative.

Bright? I'll accept the compliment.

Extrovert, characterized by outgoingness? Not really. I've said before in this blog that I consider myself to lean toward introversion. However, I can be extroverted around those with whom I feel comfortable, and I can and often do act extroverted around those whom I don't know as well, if only to mask my inner insecurity.

Often too talkative: Guilty as charged, although my wife would challenge that.

  • Predilection to shyness. Suspiciousness is possible. Poor vigor and sluggishness.

Predilection to shyness? I thought you just said I'm an outgoing extrovert! Make up your mind!

Suspiciousness is possible: Actually, no. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, until they give me a reason not to.

Poor vigor and sluggishness: Again, didn't you just say in the previous bullet that I was characterized by "activity"? But, yes, I'm a sedentary individual who likes to sit around a lot, and I'm often slow to get moving, so I'll give you this one.

  • Irreparably pessimistic relation to life. The person feels doomed, often dissatisfied, hopeless and lonely.

Now, that's a little severe. I'm not that much of a downer! I will admit, though, that although life's been reasonably good to me, I secretly live in constant fear of seeing it all fall to pieces on me.

  • Predilection to disputes and adventures, aggressiveness and light-mindedness.

Disputes? Hardly! I pride myself on being one of the most conciliatory people you'd ever want to meet! In fact, if anything, I'm a bit of a doormat sometimes. I'm not terribly adventurous either, except when I go canoeing, I suppose.

Light-mindedness? I'll challenge that too. I spend a lot of time meditating and brooding over things. A "light-minded" individual would occupy themselves with shallow distractions (not that I don't do my share of that).

  • Egocentricity. This is usually an unripe person with low aesthetic concerns. Often has difficulty in making contacts.

I'll confess to a certain degree of egocentricity. I'm not sure what an "unripe" person is, but I don't mind being categorized as one. I've met a few "ripe" individuals in my time, and it wasn't pleasant.

Low aesthetic concerns: Well, looking around at the cluttered state of my attic office, I can hardly argue that point! I will say, however, that I can also be quite picky about how things are displayed or arranged. It just depends what mood you catch me in.

Often has difficulty in making contacts: True but, again, I thought you said I was an extrovert?

  • Frank attitude to the people. Skill to perceive others and receive criticism. Indulgent.

Oh, so we're finally saying something positive about me now, are we? Well thank you very much!

Frank attitude to the people: Yes, I'm pretty much a "What you see is what you get" sort of guy.

Skill to perceive others and receive criticism: I like to think of myself as a good judge of character, and I can take honest, constructive criticism. I'm probably my own harshest critic, and I revel in self-deprecating humor.

Indulgent: Yes but, once again, didn't you say, just before, that I have a "predilection to disputes"? I'm not indulgent enough to overlook direct contradiction, bucko!

  • Normal functionality. Patience. Predilection to study.

Normal functionality: Just a moment...

Whirrrr... click-click-click... BEEP! click-click-click... Ka-CHUNK!



Patience: Yes, but here's a funny thing. I can be infinitely patient and calm in the most difficult of circumstances, yet go to pieces and curse up a storm over some trifling inconvenience, such as having misplaced some unimportant item.

Predilection to study: This makes me sound like more of a scholar than I really am, but I am one of those people who actually reads the instructions. In fact, I learn a fair through reading, so I'll give this one the nod as well.

  • Fairness. Sometimes ruse, slyness. Usually executes his/her promises and is not capable of betrayal.

Fairness: I really like to think so.

Sometimes ruse, slyness: Only when it suits my purposes (nya-hah-ha!) But, seriously, I can be a frighteningly good liar if I want to.

Usually executes his/her promises: I'm old-fashioned enough to want my word to mean something.

Not capable of betrayal: I like the way you put that. I've never, to the best of my recollection, stabbed anybody in the back.

  • The capacity to generate ideas is possible.

I should hope that I have the occasional original thought. On the other hand, I've known many much more forward-thinking people than myself.

  • Self-confidence and self-control in complex situations. Also concerned about others' opinions.

Self-confidence: Not always, although I generally try to convince myself that I'm equal to most situations.

Self-control in complex situations: See? Didn't I say that before myself? Just don't let me misplace my screwdriver!

Concerned about others' opinions: Depends on what, I suppose. I'm very (perhaps overly) concerned about others' opinions of me. I do try to give others' views a fair hearing, even if I don't necessarily agree, and I accept that not everybody sees things as I do (which brings us back to "indulgent", I suppose).

  • Capability to influence the acts. Sometimes he/she is more exacting to themselves than others.

Capability to influence the acts: I don't consider myself a very influential person, but my daughter has proven me wrong about that. It's frightening how often I've seen myself mirrored in her, and not always for the good!

More exacting to (my)self than others: This is worded ambiguously. It could mean that I'm harder on myself than others are on me, or it could mean that I'm harder on myself than I am on others. Either is true.

  • Seldom makes jokes.

Now that's just wrong. So horribly, horribly wrong! You were doing so-so, but now you've blown yourself right out of the water!

  • Seldom will miss the chance. do what??? I really want to know!

  • Excessive sex adventures.

Once again, horribly, horribly wrong! (Unfortunately).

The program guessed, correctly, that my astrological sign is Libra and suggests that I'd make a good artist or actor.

And, look! It even came up with graphs of my most likely Myers-Briggs types. Seems it has me pegged as a likely ENTP (which, interestingly enough, was what one of my readers guessed as well). In fact, when I took the test, I came up INTP, which also came up fairly high on the probability list. Apparently, I'm nothing like an INFJ, though, which is how most authors appear to be characterized. So much for my fantasies about writing the Great North-American Blog, I guess.

The program comes with a gallery of famous (and infamous) faces, complete with profile analyses. According to the software, Adolf Hitler is hostile, clever and diligent, and would make a good military man. Before you say "Duh!" and assume that the authors simply made the profiles fit the personas, it also describes Adam Sandler as hostile, clever and honest, and says he would make a good scientist. Babe Ruth is a pessimist, diligent and volitional, and would make either a good worker or an "official" (though it doesn't specify official what). Bob Dylan is sanguine, an egoist and diligent, and would make a good physician or teacher.

One other interesting feature that the program offers is the ability to compare a sketch with others in the database in order to find faces with similar features. The people in the database whose features are apparently most similar to mine include:

Evita Perron (similar eyes and lips with an overall similarity of 35.5%)

Paul Lynde (similar nose and eyes with an overall similarity of 35.5%)

Gary Becker (similar lips and eyes, with an overall similarity of 34%)

Peter Lawford (similar lips and eyes, with an overall similarity of 32.5%)

Dick Cheney (similar lips and eyes, with an overall similarity of 32.4%)

The verdict? Well, I'm not exactly a convert to physiognomy just yet. Some of the points are accurate, some aren't, and some are just plain contradictory. A lot of them are generalizations that probably apply to just about everyone. Still, the program does make for an interesting conversation (or in this case, blog post) starter.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have some excessive sex adventures.

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