04/06/2013 10:38 am ET Updated Jun 17, 2013

Unibrow Discrimination? Mark Rober's Whimsical VIDEO Spotlights Snap Judgments Based On Appearance

From Frida Kahlo to Anthony Davis, some people seem to do just fine with a bushy brow -- but that may not be the case for everyone.

In fact, a whimsical new video from NASA's Mark Rober suggests a unibrow can cause some pretty hairy social problems.

"Ever since my personal discovery of tweezers between the 11th and 12th grades, I've long suspected that people without unibrows actually get treated better by the general population," Rober, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says in the video.

And so Rober conducted his own citizen science experiment to test his theory.

After a makeup artist fitted Rober with a ginormous synophyrs (the medical term for a unibrow), he went out and tried to start conversations with people in stores. Then he ditched the unibrow and returned to the same stores in the same clothes, and approached people in the same way.

What did he find? People seemed less eager to talk to him when he was sporting one brow instead of two. And reticence wasn't the only unpleasant thing he encountered. People frowned at him. They made fun. Teenagers tried to take his picture. It was enough to make one :-(

Rober's experiment may not have been especially rigorous, but it does put the spotlight on something psychologists say can be a serious problem.

"People form impressions very rapidly and are highly sensitive to deviations from what is perceived as a typical face," Dr. Alex Todorov, professor of psychology at Princeton University, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.

While it may be more common -- and even a sign of beauty -- in Tajikistan, unibrows can raise brows in Western cultures.

"Generally, faces that are atypical tend to be evaluated negatively," Todorov said.

Such is Todorov's professional judgment. But ultimately he had the same reaction to the video as the rest of us: "I think the experiment is pretty hilarious," he said, summing up his feelings with a familiar emoticon :-)

Or maybe he should have made that |:-)



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