Return to homepage Skip to navigation Skip to site search Skip to main content Skip to footer


Face of the ‘average Dundonian’ revealed at Abertay

6 November 2014

Left - men (top) and women born in Dundee. Centre - The Face of Dundee. Right - men (top) and women who live in Dundee

The appearance of what the ‘average Dundonian’ looks like was revealed today (November 6) at Abertay University.

The ‘Face of Dundee’ is made up of features from both people born and people currently resident in Dundee.

The project was developed for Dundee Science Festival and began back in September when Dr Chris Watkins - a psychologist who runs the Human Relationships Laboratory at Abertay - turned photographer and tried to convince as many people as he could to donate their faces to science.

The aim was to develop an image made up of the eyes, ears, noses, lips, cheeks and chins of as many people as possible.

This type of image manipulation is used within science to explore, among many other things, whether certain characteristics - such as small eyes or a robust jaw line, for example - influence how attractive, trustworthy or dominant people judge a face to be.

The final image - which took over 40 hours to create - was created by averaging the shape, colour and texture features of everyone who contributed to the project.

The Face of Dundee - male and female faces combined

A standard template was matched to all of the key features on each face so that each point had its own X and Y coordinates.

This data was then used to calculate the average shape of the set of faces and the features contained within them.

Each individual face photograph was then ‘warped’ into the average template and each of these warped faces was then morphed together to create the final face.

Finally, an algorithm was used to add a realistic skin texture to the face based on the typical characteristics of those who took part in the research.

In addition to the final image, Dr Watkins created a further four images by separating the faces into male and female categories, and then dividing them up into those who were born in Dundee, and those who moved to live here.

L - Face of women born in Dundee. R - Face of women living in Dundee

Dr Chris Watkins explains how - and why - he created the ‘Face of Dundee’:

“Our physical appearance is a product of both inheritance and the lives we lead. Lots of scientific research from the 90s onwards has used computer graphic technology to capture the average - or prototypical - appearance of a set of faces, inspired by composite portraiture from the 19th century.

“Over a period of around 20 years, the software we used to create the ‘Face of Dundee’ has been widely used in scientific research in two major ways so far. We can use it to compute the average facial features of a given category, and use these prototypes to explore whether we make any judgements about faces that belong to the given category.

“For example, some researchers have constructed averages based on people’s responses to personality questionnaires and used these findings to test whether people who appear a certain way - such as people who look like extroverts - also report acting in that way.

“We can also use the software to exaggerate specific features in individual face images in order to explore whether or not manipulating these features has an effect on how we judge the face.

“Lots of work has used these techniques to make faces appear relatively masculine or feminine, in order to explore whether these facial characteristics influence how attractive, trustworthy or dominant we judge a face to be.

“Many of the people who donated their face to this project have agreed to have their faces used for this type of research in the future, so it’s been a great way to talk to people about the kind of research that we’re doing here at Abertay.”

L - Face of men born in Dundee. R - Face of men living in Dundee

To find out more about the research taking place at Abertay, visit the Human Relationships Laboratory’s website.

If anyone who would like to ‘donate’ their face for future research, please contact Dr Watkins by emailing


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972 172 158 E:

Back to News