Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Professor [...] toured shopping centres in Europe and Israel, taking candid photographs of people with interesting noses."

Friggin' dissertation, always getting in the way of important things, like responding properly to an article about the "14 types of noses" and what they mean. Instead, I'm going to write up my response to Bourget's Cosmopolis, an 1892 novel about, roughly, the 14 types of noses and what they mean.


Anonymous said...

Too bad you didn't have time to do further research:

Phoebe said...

Oh, I read that when it was new. (Ducks head.)

Britta said...

As someone in the midst of applying for grants in which I have to justify the unique contribution my research will make to Science and furthering our understanding of the world blah blah, I have to wonder how people get money to do stuff like this. Are they like, "while a good start, racial pseudoscientific cataloguing of body parts was merely partial and biased, and I propose to do a more thorough job"? Also, Israel and Europe are not representative of the entire world. To the extent that you could or would want to catalogue the world's noses, it seems like you'd have to go to other places as well, like Asia, South America, and Africa. Finally, if he only looked at "interesting" noses, doesn't that rule out any claims to percentage of representation of noses in general?
This setting aside the whole issue of looking at a bunch of noses and ruling the one's that look more stereotypically Jewish as "unattractive." (Oh yeah. And what are value judgments doing in scientific research?)

Phoebe said...


You're forgetting the key piece, which is: "Daily Mail." Presumably either the study isn't legit at all, or it was totally misinterpreted, or both.

Britta said...

Good point. I found the abstract of the study (published in the Journal of Cranio-Facial Surgery) and believe it or not, if anything it actually looks more illegitimate and offensive than the DM article made it out to be.


It's kind of exactly an updated phrenology, with all the pseudoscience still intact.

Britta said...

Ok...I actually read the article. It really makes you wonder how the world of academic publishing works.

The article...is actually much worse than the abstract makes it appear. The Journal of Cranio-Facial Surgery is subscribed to by the UC library, so it must not be complete garbage, and all the other articles look in the journal look otherwise very scholarly. The author is a professor of chemical engineering at Ben-Gurion university.

Here are some representative excerpts from the article:

from background section, which is an enumeration of nose shapes and linked character traits:

"2. The Roman nose is long and has a downward-sloping tip. It symbolizes courage and ability to make decisions and think clearly. People with this kind of nose are very ambitious and delighted in every kind of challenge and can achieve great prosperity in middle age.

3. The hooked nose presents people who are hungry for success. Women with this type of nose may develop outstanding educational abilities as well as commercial instinct."

From the Methods section:

"Two sources were applied to obtain noses of different shapes. The first one is artworks of human face profile found in different artwork books. The second and the major source is pictures of real noses photographed in Israel and in the following countries in Europe where the author visited: Holland, Belgium, and France."

From experimental results section:

"3. In Israel, for men and women, the most widespread nose is shape 1 (i = 1), 37.5%, the fleshy nose, whereas in Europe, it is shape 5 (i = 5), 22.1%, the celestial nose.

4. The most attractive nose shape is probably the celestial or snub, shapes 5 and 6 in Figure 2."

So...it does actually appear like an Israeli professor with no academic reason to be interested in noses whatsoever has decided to "scientifically" prove that Europeans have more attractive noses than Jews.

Phoebe said...


OK, consider me horrified. Not shocked, because there was recently some other "scholarly" article about how black women (just the women) were "objectively" unattractive (although not done by a black woman, which would be the equivalent). Also unconvinced - I have a better ancedata sample then most re: Jewish and Belgian noses, and don't know of too many snub noses in either category.

The really bizarre thing to me is less that one physical appearance is declared more attractive than another (offensive but not bizarre), but that personality types are being ascribed to noses. This is, like, from well before racial pseudoscience, even.

PG said...

This reminds me of a troubling moment of agreement with Glenn Beck I had recently, when he was objecting to a NYT writer's using (on live TV, and immediately being embarrassed by) the phrase "downward-sloping foreheads" to refer to people who are stupid. Beck and I both thought, "That's really eugenics-sounding." It's inherently peculiar in this day and age to associate physical characteristics with those of intellect or personality, and such associations have had such disastrous consequences historically -- even within the U.S., as with the forced sterilization of people judged partly by their physical appearance to be prone to feeble-mindedness or criminality -- that I don't understand why someone would even include them in his thought process. (Beck then went on to ascribe eugenicist thinking to all liberals ever because Margaret Sanger yadayada, which was not a train of thought that I boarded.)

Phoebe said...


Totally on board, insofar as what's creepy about this is the eugenicist angle. But what strikes me as absolutely bizarre is that this is like a description in Balzac, i.e. something from before Gobineau was holding forth in the 1860s. The idea that face=personality, even just among white-European sorts, was one that I thought kind of disappeared once it got absorbed into modern race pseudoscience. While there's obviously still racism, still people getting their noses "fixed" for racial reasons, it was not at all obvious to me that anyone still had notions about the personality an "aquiline" nose implies. Yet this academic apparently did.