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Scientific research says someone else should select your online profile pictures

Scientific research says someone else should select your online profile pictures
Posted at 9:40 AM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-17 09:40:01-04

The word “selfie” has been listed in the Oxford Dictionary since 2013, but a newly published study has now scientifically determined that we are awful at selecting our own best selfies.

People are better at choosing photos that appear attractive, trustworthy and competent for other people than for themselves, according to a study that Australian researcher David White published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications on April 14.

"We make inferences about an individual’s character and personality within a split second of exposure to a photograph of their face,” White wrote. "These impressions have been shown to predict important and diverse real-world outcomes — both online and offline — including the number of votes received by political candidates, company profits generated during a CEO’s tenure, selection as a suspect from police line-ups and the popularity of an Airbnb host’s rental accommodation.

White and his fellow researchers asked 102 college students to download a dozen pictures of themselves from their Facebook accounts and determine which ones they would use for Facebook, professional social networks and dating websites. Strangers then picked which of those 12 photos they would use for profile pictures.

The participants rated the images for attractiveness, trustworthiness, dominance, competence and confidence before researchers used the Internet to have strangers rate the selected profile pictures for the same traits.

Everyone seemed to do a fine job of picking attractive photos, but researchers found that strangers fared better at selecting images accentuating trustworthiness and competence. 

This surprising finding may be because we're just too used to seeing our own faces all the time, White hypothesized.

“Very recent evidence suggests that memory for specific images of familiar faces may be impaired relative to unfamiliar faces, raising the possibility that familiarity for any face — not only our own face — causes difficulty in discriminating between different images of that face,” White wrote.

The report ends with a bit of practical wisdom for finding the perfect profile picture. 

“When it comes to choosing the best version of ourselves, it may be wise to let other people choose for us."

See the full report at the website here.