Gettysburg College may soon be known for beauty as well as battle.
Psychology Prof. Richard Russell is collaborating with Chanel R&T to examine how the appearance of the face changes with age and how that changes the perception of the age of a face.
Russell has spent the better part of 2010 working with CE.R.I.E.S. (Epidermal and Sensory Research and Investigation Center). CE.R.I.E.S. serves as the Chanel center of excellence on skin related issues and facial appearance.
"I really enjoy this type of collaboration," Russell said. "Industrial research teams bring a different perspective that helps broaden my approach and the opportunities of my students."
Russell studies visual cognition, aesthetics, and the perception of faces. His courses at Gettysburg include Human Cognition and Sensation and Perception, His published work in 2009 caught the attention of Chanel R&T.
Russell published a study in the scholarly journal Perception where he demonstrated the existence of a facial contrast difference between genders. By measuring photographs of men and women, he found that female faces have greater contrast between eyes, lips, and surrounding skin than do male faces. This difference in facial contrast was also found to influence our perception of the gender of a face.
"Cosmetics are typically used in precisely the correct way to exaggerate this difference", Russell said. "Making the eyes and lips darker without changing the surrounding skin increases the facial contrast. Femininity and attractiveness are highly correlated, so making a face more feminine also makes it more attractive."
CE.R.I.E.S contacted Russell shortly after to suggest developing a research-based collaborative relationship. The partnership began last summer when Russell traveled to Chanel R&T in Paris and continued when a researcher from CERIES spent six months at Gettysburg working side by side with Russell in his lab, along with psychology major Lydia MacKenzie '13.
While the data collection portion of their study is complete and the French researcher is back home, the pair continues to work long distance to analyze and measure their findings with plans for C.E.R.I.E.S. to visit in May and Russell this summer.
"I'm looking forward to continuing the relationship with Chanel R&T," Russell said. "I think there are several opportunities to extend the relationship that will benefit students and the research."
Russell earned a bachelor's degree from Pomona College majoring in neuroscience and worked as a research assistant doing functional neuroimaging at Cambridge University. He received a Ph.D. in cognitive science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed postdoctoral research at Harvard University.
By: Kendra Martin, director of media relations & news content