Nav: Home

When it comes to your profile picture, let a stranger do the choosing

April 13, 2017

When trying to pick the most flattering pictures for online profiles, it may be best to let a stranger do the choosing, a study published in the open access journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications suggests.

In the first study to investigate the process by which people choose their profile pictures, a team led by researchers at UNSW Sydney, Australia found that images selected by strangers convey more favorable first impressions than images people select for themselves. The findings appear to contradict previous research which showed that people tend to portray themselves more favorably than others.

Dr David White, lead author of the study said: "Our findings suggest that people make poor choices when selecting flattering images of themselves for online profile pictures, which affects other people's perception of them. This effect is likely to have a substantial impact on online interactions, the impressions people form and the decisions they base on them, including whether to employ, date, befriend or even vote for someone."

Dr White said: "Previous work has shown that people make inferences about an individual's character and personality within a split second of seeing a photograph of their face, so our results have clear practical implications; if you want to put your best face forward, it makes sense to ask someone else to choose your picture."

To find out whether selecting one's own profile picture might have a positive or negative effect on first impressions, the researchers asked 102 students to select two out of 12 photos of their own face that they were most or least likely to use as a profile picture in three online network contexts: social networks, dating sites and professional networks.

Participants were then asked to do the same for 12 images of a randomly selected stranger who had participated in the study previously. The researchers found that people tended to select images that highlighted positive personality traits in line with the context of the website that the image was for.

Dr White said: "Our results demonstrate that people know how to select profile pictures that fit specific networking contexts and make positive impressions on strangers: dating images appear more attractive, and professional images appear more competent."

However, when the researchers showed these images to unfamiliar viewers (i.e. strangers) they had recruited via the internet and asked them to rate how attractive, trustworthy, dominant, confident or competent the person in them appeared, they found that the images people had selected for themselves made a less favorable impression than images selected by others.

Dr White added: "Future research needs to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the choices people make when selecting profile pictures to find out why people seem to have a limited ability to select the most flattering images of themselves."
-end-
Media Contact

Matthew Lam
Press Manager
BioMed Central
T: +44 (0)20 3192 2722
E: matthew.lam@biomedcentral.com

Notes to editors:

1. An infographic is available here: http://bit.ly/2nDhbY2
Credit must be given in any re-use as 'Choosing face infographic' by David White.

2. Research article: Choosing face: The curse of self in profile image selection.
White et al
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017
DOI: 10.1186/s41235-017-0058-3

During the embargo period, please contact Matthew Lam for a copy of the manuscript.

After the embargo lifts, the article will be available at the journal website here: https://cognitiveresearchjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41235-017-0058-3

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

3. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications publishes new empirical and theoretical work covering all areas of Cognition, with a special emphasis on use-inspired basic research: fundamental research that grows from hypotheses about real-world problems. We expect that authors will be able to explain in a Significance section how their basic research serves to advance our understanding of the cognitive aspects of a problem with real-world applications.

4. SpringerOpen, launched in June 2010, includes Springer's portfolio of 200+ peer-reviewed fully open access journals across all areas of science. In August 2012, due to the growing demand for open access and the success of our SpringerOpen journals, we expanded our offering to open access books. Published under the SpringerOpen brand they complement our established open access journal portfolio. SpringerOpen journals and books are made freely and permanently available online immediately upon publication. They are subject to high-level peer review, author and production services ensuring quality and reliability of the work. Authors publishing with SpringerOpen retain the copyright to their work, licensing it under a Creative Commons license. To cover the cost of the publication process, all SpringerOpen journals and books charge an open access fee.

5. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Nature, a major new force in scientific, scholarly, professional and educational publishing, created in May 2015 through the combination of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. http://www.biomedcentral.com

BioMed Central

Related Asked Articles:

A & E departments need to do more to identify young people with alcohol problems
Nine of out of ten Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments are failing to identify young people with alcohol problems, preventing them from getting the vital help they need, a new study in the Emergency Medicine Journal has found.
How language helps people cope with negative experiences
A new study demonstrates how people use the word 'you' in a general sense to distance themselves psychologically -- and extract meaning -- from negative experiences.
It's really about me, not 'you'
University of Michigan researchers say it may seem contradictory that a means of generalizing to people at large is used when reflecting on one's most personal and idiosyncratic experiences.
Consumption of grilled meat linked to higher mortality risk among breast cancer survivors
Findings published in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicate that higher consumption of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat may increase the mortality risk among breast cancer survivors.
WSU study finds people willing to pay more for new biofuels
When it comes to second generation biofuels, Washington State University research shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium of approximately 11 percent over conventional fuel.
Too stressed to make smart purchases?
The authors explored how multitasking -- typically talking on a mobile phone -- affects consumers' ability to perform shopping tasks successfully.
Rolling on Molly: US H.S. seniors underreport ecstasy use when not asked about Molly
A new study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by researchers affiliated with NYU CDUHR, compared self-reported ecstasy/MDMA use with and without 'Molly' in the definition.
Social engineering: Password in exchange for chocolate
It requires a lot of effort and expense for computer hackers to program a Trojan virus and infiltrate individual or company computers.
Thinking differently could affect power of traumatic memories
Using a thinking technique called 'concrete processing' could reduce the number of intrusive memories experienced after a traumatic event.
Schoolchildren were asked to brainstorm solutions from the perspective of the circular ec
It is believed that the circular economy will radically transform the entire business sector in the next few years.

Related Asked Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...