[Exclusive] Can Brain Scans Reveal What Twins Wish They Looked Like?

Scott Chasserot continues his 'Original/Ideal' project by revealing the ideal self-images of two twin brothers.

by Beckett Mufson
Apr 7 2015, 6:00pm

"Paul" Images courtesy the artist

Scott Chasserot was fresh off the launch of his wildly popular project Original/Ideal when we last heard from the photographer-cum-brainwave analyst, an image series which exposed people to a barrage of slightly modified pictures of themselves, then measured their brain activity to divine their ideal self-images. Original/Ideal was an experiment designed to make us ask questions about how we perceive ourselves, but at the end of the day the results were less conclusive than simply food for thought. "The methodology is still in pilot study phase," Chasserot told The Creators Project at the time. "There is plenty to be improved upon."

Over the past six months, he's been working hard to make these improvements, and is now in the process of launching a crowdfunding campaign to put them into action in the form of an Original/Ideal world tour. Working with NYU researcher and Marina Abramovic Institute curator/science advisor Suzanne Dikker from NYU and the head of Princeton's face research lab, Alexander Todorov, Chasserot has developed new ways to interpret readings from the brainwave-scanning EEGs, as well as a questionnaire to find out which tweaked portraits people preferred on a conscious level, which he wants to test in five cities on five different continents.

In the meantime, he's also been exploring another question brought about by Original/Ideal: how might two identical twins' reactions to their adjusted images be different? Between organizing an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and opening possible avenues of communication with artists like Marina Abramovic, Chasserot shot a pair of twins named Kevin and Paul, whose Original/Ideal portraits debut today. We also got an exclusive look at their full range of adjusted portraits, which you can see in the GIF below.

These GIFs show how 'Original/Ideal' subjects would see themselves while hooked up to Chasserot's EEG. Courtesy the artist.

In its current state, Original/Ideal remains simply food for thought, and the photographer is painfully aware of that fact. "It's an art project, it's not a science project. I'm not trying to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal," he tells The Creators Project in the midst of launching his new campaign. "What I'm trying to measure is the strongest reaction. And there's definitely a leap that has to be made that the strongest reaction is because of a preference for that version of a face."

But Chasserot says these could just be temporary setbacks. Thanks to his colleages at NYU and Princeton, the photographer hopes to fine-tune his data analysis process to the point where more tangible results can be derived from simple EEGs. And these sorts of brainwave scanners do have their benefits: "The interesting thing about using an EEG is that it gives you very high temporal accuracy, so it can give you a result specific to a millisecond level," Chasserot explains. "The whole point is that what you're recording is a reaction before the cognitive processes that affect our concept of self-image have time to kick in. It's an immediate emotional reaction."


So, what did we learn from Kevin and Paul's "immediate emotional reactions?" As Chasserot puts it, "I think you'll see the results between the two individual twins are quite different."

If you find these glimpses into self-image as fascinating as we do, pop over to Chasserot's Indiegogo and help bring his experiments to New York City, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Tokyo, and Stockholm, as well as fund the publication of a new photography book, and new collaborations with other artists.

To learn more, visit Chasserot's site, and check out our previous coverage here.


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