Who's the more typical American, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama? According to a European study, the answer depends on who's answering the question. How people see themselves is a potent force that affects how they see others.
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The study posed the question of what the typical European man looked like to natives of Germany and Portugal. Not surprisingly, the Germans thought that the typical European looked more German, while the Portuguese thought that the typical European had a distinctly Portuguese cast.
Other studies have shown that people who belong to a group think that a typical group member has characteristics similar to their own. But those studies were done using words. This one used pictures.
Students from Bonn, Germany (53), and Lisbon, Portugal (50), were shown 770 pairs of male faces on a computer monitor and asked to pick which face in each pair was the more European looking. The faces were composite aggregates of men photographed in Germany and Portugal, with noise added to the photographs to distort the men's features.
After the students had made their selections, the researchers averaged all the images picked by the German students and all the images picked by the Portuguese students to construct two typical European faces.