Portrait of Memnon: Greek, c. 170 AD
Memnon was the pupil, protégé, and adopted son of Herodes Atticus, a Greek aristocrat and sophist who served as a senator of the Roman Empire. He was named after the mythological Ethiopian king Memnon who fights alongside the Trojans in the Trojan war. The son of a human prince, Tithonus, and Eos, goddess of the dawn, Memnon is killed by Achilles, but then granted immortality by Eos.
Klatle-bhi (Kwakwaka’wakw/Squamish): The Guardian; I had to guess on the date.
Using sets of morphed images created from animate (human) and inanimate (doll) faces, we found converging evidence across two studies showing that the motivation to connect with other people systematically alters the interpretation of the physical features that signal that a face is alive. Specifically, in their efforts to find and connect with other social agents, individuals who feel socially disconnected actually decrease their thresholds for what it means to be alive, consistently observing animacy when fewer definitively human cues are present. From an evolutionary perspective, overattributing animacy may be an adaptive strategy that allows people to cast a wide net when identifying possible sources of social connection and maximize their opportunities to renew social relationships.
Each trial began with participants clicking a “start” button located in the bottom center of the screen. Once clicked, a face appeared, and participants were instructed to categorize that face as either “animate” or “inanimate” by clicking the corresponding label located at either the top-left or top-right corner of the screen. Faces were presented in a random order, and the location of the labels on the screen was counterbalanced across participants.
Compared with individuals who felt socially connected, individuals characterized by a chronic desire for social connections…or those who have these needs momentarily heightened through an experimental manipulation…were consistently more likely to say a morphed face was alive.
—Katherine E. Powers, Andrea L. Worsham, Jonathan B. Freeman, Thalia Wheatley, and Todd F. Heatherton: “Social Connection Modulates Perceptions of Animacy” (2014); text here.
Martin Johnson Heade: Approaching Storm: Beach near Newport (c 1861–62)
In order to measure people’s visualizations of God’s face, we used a nascent technique known as “reverse correlation.” In reverse correlation, a face is repeatedly and randomly overlaid with visual noise to create many pairs of contrasting faces. Participants see these contrasting faces side-by-side on a computer screen and select the face from each pair that best matches their representation of a given target or category….In our study, each participant viewed 300 face pairs….[and] selected the face from each pair that better characterized how they imagined God to look.
—Joshua Conrad Jackson , Neil Hester, and Kurt Gray: “The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics” (2018); text here.
The image above shows the composites of God’s perceived face (left) and anti-face (right) across American Christians. The study also shows that “liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African-American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful.” Participants generally saw God as similar to themselves in terms of attractiveness, age, and race.
Peder Mørk Mønsted: Forest Stream (1896)
In passynge be the lond of CATHAYE toward the higℏ ynde & toward BACHARYE, men passen be a kyngdom þat men clepen CALDILHE, þat is a fuƚƚ fair contre. And þere growetℏ a maner of fruyt as þougℏ it weren GOWRDES, And whan þei ben rype men kutten hem a to & men fynden withjnne a lytyƚƚ best in flescℏ, in bon & blode, as þougℏ it were a lytiƚƚ lomb withouten wolle. And men eten botℏe the frut & the best, And þat is a gret merueylle. Of þat frute I haue eten aƚƚ þougℏ it were wonderfuƚƚ but þat I knowe wel þat god is merueyllous in his werkes.
In passing through the land of China toward upper India and toward Bactria, men pass through a kingdom called Chaldia, that is a full fair country. And there grows a kind of fruit that looks like a gourd. And when they are ripe, men cut them in two, and men find within a little beast, in flesh, in bone, and blood, that looks like a little lamb without wool. And men eat both the fruit and the beast. And that is a great marvel. Of that fruit I have eaten, although it was dreadful, but that I know well that God is marvelous in his works.
—The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1357 – 1371)