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Age is in the eye of the beholder? 各有所见

中国日报网 2023-10-24 13:49


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: Age is in the eye of the beholder.


My comments:

The topic of discussion is, must be, aging, the aging process and how to look at it. And one conclusion is that there is no definitive answer to, for example, how old is old. Is a forty-year-old old? How about 60? How about 90?

It depends on how you look at it. Some people view age 60 as old, no matter how active that man or woman is. Others, increasingly nowadays, see 60 as middle-aged and look forward to many productive years ahead.

That’s what “age is in the eye of the beholder” means. It means it’s a subjective matter. It’s up to the individual.

Still in other words, there’s no consensus or unanimity of opinion on the question. No perfect objectivity.

“Age is in the eye of the beholder” is actually a variation of the much popular saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. And that means exactly what I’ve just said. There’s no consensus when it comes to the matter of what is considered as beautiful or ugly.

In China, we have a similar saying, qing ren yan li chu xishi, which roughly translates, beauty is in the eye of a lover. When one’s infatuated with someone, that someone always looks beautiful.

This may be a narrow point of view, but you get the point.

In short, if someone says something is in the eye of the beholder, this is the point they want to make – that it’s up to the beholder.

It’s entirely subjective, in other words.

The beholder, by the way, is the person who beholds, as in, lo and behold, there’s a beautiful bird sitting on the windowsill. The beholder is the observer. He’s the watcher.

All right, here are media discussions of things that lie in the eye of the beholder:

1. Physical attractiveness heavily shapes human culture, affecting everything from social standing, to employment prospects, to who we partner with. So it’s no wonder that social scientists are enamored with it.

Over decades of research, they’ve explored what makes men and women attractive. Muscularity, facial symmetry, facial hair, jaw shape, height, and youthfulness all factor in to male attractiveness, while breast fullness, facial symmetry, youthfulness, waist-to-hip ratio, a rounded butt, hair length, and eye size can make women more attractive.

Hot or not?

They’ve also generally put to bed any sentimental notion that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” All of us, regardless of our own physical attractiveness, tend to view the same people as attractive or unattractive.

Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, shared this blunt truth in an interview with Big Think more than a decade ago. It was one of Ariely’s studies that helped evince it.

In it, Ariely and his colleagues made use of the legendary website HotorNot.com, a page started in 2000 where anyone could both upload a photograph to have their attractiveness rated on a scale from 1 to 10 by anonymous users and rate the photographs of other users. HotorNot offered a crowdsourced answer to something most people have agonized about at one time or another: How attractive am I? To laypersons, the site was tacky, bordering on offensive, yet endlessly addicting. But to social scientists studying human attractiveness, it was absolute gold.

Ariely and his team mined the website for data, seeking to find if a person’s attractiveness affected how they rated others. “And the answer is no, we all see beauty in the same way,” Ariely summarized. “The people who are 9 rate people the same way as the people who are 4 in the hotness rating.”

Beauty inequality

HotorNot also had a dating function that allowed users to reach out to others on the website. The researchers found that users tended only to approach people with a similar attractiveness rating to their own. It was a clear manifestation of what scientists call assortative mating, which Ariely described as “the idea that if you took [everybody] and you ranked them on how attractive they are… the most attractive would date the most attractive. The middle attractive would basically date the middle, and the low would date the low.”

Furthermore, Ariely found that the more unattractive people are, the less they value physical attractiveness in potential mates. Instead, they focus on emotional characteristics like kindness, sense of humor, and dedication.

And this may be a good thing. Studies suggest that attractive people tend to have shorter and less satisfying relationships, perhaps because they overvalue attractiveness in their partners while overlooking other valuable traits.

- We want to date “hot” people — but who you actually date is based on how hot you are, BigThink.com, December 13, 2022.

2. There’s a word for a man who is afraid to show up: coward.

Former President Donald Trump is a coward when it comes to debating his primary opponents.

Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes cowards win. For example, the governor of Arizona refused to debate her opponent last year, and she’s the current governor of Arizona. In politics, as in sports, it doesn’t matter if you win by one or by 1 million.

But in politics, especially presidential politics, courage matters.

A rather large part of Trump’s appeal in 2016 was his seeming fearlessness. He was willing to say things that were not poll-tested. In some cases, conventional wisdom held that his comments would prove disastrous for any candidate to utter them, even if they reflected things that many people were thinking.

Trump’s willingness to speak out, even at the possible cost of offending everyone, was endearing in a very weird way. It’s also what made his rallies must-see television.


Trump shouldn’t debate, his supporters say, because there’s nowhere for him to go but down. That’s not true, though. He could wipe out everyone else, if he prepared and performed well.

That’s what I think he’s really afraid of.

If he doesn’t show up because the others aren’t “legitimate” contenders, then Biden is empowered to do the same. Legitimacy, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

- Donald Trump is a coward for not debating tonight, by Derek Hunter, TheHill.com, September 27, 2023.

3. Someone’s prior beliefs about an artificial intelligence agent, like a chatbot, have a significant effect on their interactions with that agent and their perception of its trustworthiness, empathy, and effectiveness, according to a new study.

Researchers from MIT and Arizona State University found that priming users – by telling them that a conversational AI agent for mental health support was either empathetic, neutral, or manipulative – influenced their perception of the chatbot and shaped how they communicated with it, even though they were speaking to the exact same chatbot.

Most users who were told the AI agent was caring believed that it was, and they also gave it higher performance ratings than those who believed it was manipulative. At the same time, less than half of the users who were told the agent had manipulative motives thought the chatbot was actually malicious, indicating that people may try to “see the good” in AI the same way they do in their fellow humans.

The study revealed a feedback loop between users’ mental models, or their perception of an AI agent, and that agent’s responses. The sentiment of user-AI conversations became more positive over time if the user believed the AI was empathetic, while the opposite was true for users who thought it was nefarious.

“From this study, we see that to some extent, the AI is the AI of the beholder,” says Pat Pataranutaporn, a graduate student in the Fluid Interfaces group of the MIT Media Lab and co-lead author of a paper describing this study. “When we describe to users what an AI agent is, it does not just change their mental model, it also changes their behavior. And since the AI responds to the user, when the person changes their behavior, that changes the AI, as well.”

- Is AI in the eye of the beholder? MIT.edu, October 2, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


Snowball’s chance? 希望不大


Sitting target 活靶子


It doesn’t wash 不可信


Break a leg 祝你好运


Track record 业绩记录


Going ballistic 勃然大怒

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