This is just plain odd. An accidental discovery. But, why does it happen? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what if something more subtle is occurring?
The phenomenon is known as “flashed face distortion effect” and is described in a research paper thus:
“We describe a novel face distortion effect resulting from the fast-paced presentation of eye-aligned faces. When cycling through the faces on a computer screen, each face seems to become a caricature of itself and some faces appear highly deformed, even grotesque. The degree of distortion is greatest for faces that deviate from the others in the set on a particular dimension (eg if a person has a large forehead, it looks particularly large). This new method of image presentation, based on alignment and speed, could provide a useful tool for investigating contrastive distortion effects and face adaptation.”
I wonder whether it works for people who have not seen caracatures or grotesques of any kind, is it an evolutionary adaption for spotting people with whom your body would prefer you not to produce offspring?
Tangen, J. M., Murphy, S.,, & Thompson, M. B. (2011). Flashed face distortion effect: Grotesque faces from relative spaces Perception : 10.1068/p6968