McDowell, Chi, and Haberman, 2016, VSS abstract

The Frozen Body Effect: Bodies in motion are more flattering than bodies frozen in time
Malerie G McDowell, Yoonkeong Chi, Jason M Haberman

The Frozen Face Effect (FFE) is the phenomenon in which a video of a face in motion is perceived as more flattering that the video’s constituent static images (Post, R.B., Haberman, J., Iwaki, L., & Whitney, D., 2012). This speaks to the perceptual ‘normalcy’ of viewing faces in motion as opposed to faces frozen in time (i.e., photographs). In the current set of experiments, we sought to determine whether this effect is unique to facial processing, per se, or if it is also present in other stimulus categories, such as bodies, that is, a Frozen Body Effect (FBE). If motion were the mitigating factor in the FBE, we would expect a static image of a body in motion to be significantly less appealing than when seen in the context of a video. If, however, the FFE were specific to face processing, we would expect no differences between the ratings of the videos and static images. To examine this, we asked participants to rate a set of 25 videos of bodies in motion (without visible faces) along with the 30 constituent frames of each video. Images and videos were interleaved and randomly presented and rated on a ‘flattery’ scale from 1-7, with 1 being least flattering. Replicating the original FFE, we found that participants rated videos of bodies in motion as significantly more flattering than the corresponding still images, suggesting that the FFE generalizes beyond face perception. Inverting the images and videos did not disrupt the FBE, further supporting the importance of natural motion, and not holistic object configuration, in judging aesthetic appeal. Only when the natural motion was disrupted by scattering the order of the video frames was the FBE mitigated.