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222638.  Mon Oct 22, 2007 5:12 pm Reply with quote

I read in today's Guardian (G2 section) that it (more often than not) costs more to have your hair cut in British hairdressers if you are Afro-Caribbean than if you are Caucasion. (Source: Tony and Guy/Vidal Sassoon).

Apparently it has to do with the thickness of the hair and requires more specialist equipment.

It might be an obvious point, but I bet most Anglo-Saxons don't know that...

227263.  Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:04 am Reply with quote

Physiology, anyone?

There ought to be some mileage in the Victorian idea that certain facial characteristics denote different character types (eg criminals):

Atavisms have been misunderstood for a long time, partly because of a man named Cesare Lombroso, a social Darwinist who believed that criminals are throwbacks to a primitive human ancestor. He declared that criminals are born criminals, and you can recognize them by their physiology. According to Lombroso, certain facial characteristics denote a criminal. (Interestingly, Lombroso also thought that criminals must have a higher pain threshold than the average citizen because many of them have tattoos from prison. His (faulty) logic was that since criminals have tattoos, and tattoos are painful, then they must have a higher tolerance for pain.) Lombroso's erroneous ideas persisted in some fashion despite evidence that his conclusions weren't scientific at all. People still sometimes associate atavisms with distasteful stereotypes, even though that isn't what the word means.

Atavisms are traits from a distant evolutionary ancestor that reappear in a modern-day organism, such as my tail. But you knew that.

Actually I think Lombroso's ideas are alive and in rude health; consider how the heroes of films are good-looking and the villains ugly, by and large.

227266.  Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:08 am Reply with quote


Q: How can I tell that Alan's a criminal just by looking at him?

232892.  Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:06 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:

Actually I think Lombroso's ideas are alive and in rude health; consider how the heroes of films are good-looking and the villains ugly, by and large.

It's something that EVERYONE believes in - even when they know it's not true.

260510.  Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:52 am Reply with quote

Possible link to Frenology/Phrenology? Developed by Franz Joseph Gall, the name "phrenology" was apparently coined by Thomas Foster in 1815.

It seems it still has its adherents:

Phrenology is a true science, which is there to benefit humanity.

260565.  Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:45 pm Reply with quote

Yes, good. We could get models of people's heads in, and some of those heads that are divided up into zones. And encourage them to feel each other's bumps.

260569.  Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:48 pm Reply with quote

Since we're logging ideas, I thought I'd look into the issue of facial symmetry. I recall reading somewhere that we find absolutely symmetrical faces disturbing, so I thought we could photoshop, say, one side of Alan's face with its mirror image to make a whole face, and ask "What's wrong with this face?"

261058.  Fri Jan 18, 2008 7:47 am Reply with quote

I thought symmetrical faces were supposed to be more attractive. Though I do vaguely remember some documentary (presumably one with a bored graphics department) that took people's faces and made two new ones: one with two copies of the left side, and one with two copies of the right (similar to this page).

I seem to recall that one composite face looked more attractive than the other, possibly something to do with "good sides" and "bad sides"? Though, admittedly, they weren't quite as freaky as the examples in the above link.

264261.  Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:24 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Yes, good. We could get models of people's heads in, and some of those heads that are divided up into zones. And encourage them to feel each other's bumps.

More on phrenology:

Phrenology is well known as the "science" of "reading bumps on the head". In fact it's also concerned with the "fissures" as well.

The study began in 1809 when Franz Joseph Gall published his snappily titled "The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular, with Observations upon the possibility of ascertaining the several Intellectual and Moral Dispositions of Man and Animal, by the configuration of their Heads."

In one respect, Gall was bang on the money. At the time, there was a debate raging about the function of the brain. One school of thought believed that the brain was a homogenous organ which worked together as a whole to produce different mental and motor functions. In contrast, Gall belonged to the other (subsequently proved correct) camp that felt the brain was compartmentalised, which each brain function associated with a particular part of the brain.

However, Gall went and made an assumption too far. He believed that the brain was like a muscle, in that parts which were used a lot grew larger, while parts that were not used atrophied. He also believed that the shape of the skull closely matched the shape of the brain beneath it. Gall christened his new "science" cranioscopy.

Originally Gall suggested there were 27 "organs" in the brain. The first 19 were common to all animals, and the final 8 specific to humans:

1. The instinct of reproduction (located in the cerebellum).
2. The love of one's offspring.
3. Affection and friendship.
4. The instinct of self-defense and courage; the tendency to get into fights.
5. The carnivorous instinct; the tendency to murder.
6. Guile; acuteness; cleverness.
7. The feeling of property; the instinct of stocking up on food (in animals); covetousness; the tendency to steal.
8. Pride; arrogance; haughtiness; love of authority; loftiness.
9. Vanity; ambition; love of glory (a quality "beneficent for the individual and for society").
10. Circumspection; forethought.
11. The memory of things; the memory of facts; educability; perfectibility.
12. The sense of places; of space proportions.
13. The memory of people; the sense of people.
14. The memory of words.
15. The sense of language; of speech.
16. The sense of colors.
17. The sense of sounds; the gift of music.
18. The sense of connectedness between numbers.
19. The sense of mechanics, of construction; the talent for architecture.
20. Comparative sagacity.
21. The sense of metaphysics.
22. The sense of satire; the sense of witticism.
23. The poetical talent.
24. Kindness; benevolence; gentleness; compassion; sensitivity; moral sense.
25. The faculty to imitate; the mimic.
26. The organ of religion.
27. The firmness of purpose; constancy; perseverance; obstinacy.

Hopefully QI contestants would have well developed organs of witticism and possibly the faculty to imitate.

However, not everyone agrees how many organs the brain has. Gall's friend and collaborator, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, who first coined the term "phrenology", extended Gall's work to include 35 organs. Some sources list as many as 42 organs, namely:

Parental Love
Hope & Expectation
Human nature

The famous porcelain phrenology head that everyone's familiar with was created by Lorenzo Niles Fowler. American by birth, Fowler moved to England and set up his own company to promote phrenology. His brother Orson Squire Fowler was also a phrenology advocate and the two brothers did much to promote popularity of the new "science".

In its heyday during the 1820s-1840s, phrenology was often used to predict a child's future life, to assess prospective marriage partners and to provide background checks for job applicants.

Although mostly discredited by the beginning of the 20th century, there did exist a brief fad for phrenological machines in the 1930's. Named the "psychograph", the machine (which looks uncomfortably like an electric chair) would take automated measurements of the subjects head and then print out a summary of its findings (video of the device being used here:

These days phrenology has been debunked as a pseudo-science. However there are still a few hardcore adherents lurking about the place. On December 1st 2007, phrenology was one of 59 services that were added to the list of things you're required to pay sales tax on in Michigan (along with Astrology services, Coin-operated blood pressure testing machine services, Fortune-telling services, Singing telegram services, and Personal care services (except hair care services) to name a few)


265274.  Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:12 am Reply with quote

Good greif Dr Bob.

*initiates round of applause for above post*

Anyway, I have a bit more to add on this:

I seem to recall that one composite face looked more attractive than the other, possibly something to do with "good sides" and "bad sides"? Though, admittedly, they weren't quite as freaky as the examples in the above link.

Professor of Curiosity guest Frank Close talks about this subject:

Apparently a study was done by Dahlia Zaidel: she showed people normal asymmetric faces, then pictures of mirrored RHS, then mirrored LHS pictures.

The results were predictable, we all prefer slightly asymmetrical faces; but while men prefer asymmetry, they have a slight preference for women whose RHS had been duplicated.

"Somehow the asymmetry in womens' faces is not random and is such that men prefer the right side over the left"

Anyway, it goes on. But I thought if we could fit this Q into a show with a female panellist it might be fun.

I should add, that I think one problem with these pictures is that it's very difficult to get someone to look directly at the centre of a camera. Even if they're slightly off-shot, you end up with one of the pictures slightly fatter or thinner than the other.

s: "Lucifer's Legacy" F.Close

Molly Cule
286671.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:23 pm Reply with quote


We could do something about the World Gurning Championship, which happens each September in Cumbria. The competition has been running since 1267. Contestants stick their heads through a horses collar and make silly faces, the winner is the person who gets the biggest laugh and claps from the audience. Photos can be found here

and here

The competition is part of the Egmont crab apple fair where people also wrestle and climb greasy poles.

Molly Cule
286675.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:33 pm Reply with quote

INABILITY TO RECOGNISE FACES is called prosopagnosia.

Mr. P in Oliver Sacks'

Dr Jane Goodall, the world-renowned chimpanzee expert discovered she was prosopagnosic after years of assuming she was just lazy with faces. She wrote to Oliver Sacks, (neurologist and author of 1998 book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat") and asked if he had heard of such a disorder. He replied that he had – and that he suffered from it. He sent her a paper called "Developmental memory impairment: faces and patterns," by Christine Temple to explain her condition. In her biography she says even though she no longer needs to feel bad about not recognising people she isn’t sure whether to tell explain herself to others, as they tend to think she is making an elaborate excuse for not recognising them.

extract from her biog here

Molly Cule
286681.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:44 pm Reply with quote

The Fregoli delusion or Fregoli syndrome is when a person has a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person in disguise. The condition is named after Leopoldo Fregoli, an Italian actor who was famous for being about to change his appearances quickly during his act.

Molly Cule
286688.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:59 pm Reply with quote

From about 1660 to 1800 well to do women would put ‘plumpers’ in their mouths; bits of cork to make their cheeks look plump or to fill in cavities in the cheek caused by a missing tooth. Plumpers made the fat cheeked ladies speak with a lisp.

286722.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:30 pm Reply with quote

Is that the origin of the 'plummy' accent, do we think? ie talking like you have plums in your mouth = plumps?


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