Under the Hood

Selfies Can Reveal Personality Traits: What Your Duckface Says About You

Selfie time
The way you conduct your selfie says a lot about you. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Selfies can create quite the scene, especially if you’re taking one with a rattlesnake or a sick patient in the hospital. They’re meant to attract attention, of course, but they might also give others an insight into your personality — denoting whether you’re lazy, positive, or neurotic. New research published in Computers in Human Behaviour examines how selfies can be windows into your personality.

“Selfies refer to self-portraits taken by oneself using a digital camera or a smartphone,” the researchers wrote in their abstract. “They become increasingly popular in social media. However, little is known about how selfies reflect their owners’ personality traits and how people judge others’ personality from selfies.”

Past research has looked into the science and psychology behind selfies. One 2014 study found that frequent selfie shots could contribute to mental illness, such as body dysmorphic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Other researchers have posited that taking a lot of selfies is linked to narcissism, isolation, and even suicide.

Negativity aside, let’s delve into the personality traits visible in those various sun-kissed, Instagram-filtered, washed-out selfies. In the study, led by researchers Lin Qiu of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, researchers analyzed 123 selfie-taking participants, all of whom used a popular Chinese microblogging website known as Sina Weibo. The participants completed a personality questionnaire, after which another group of 107 Chinese students were asked to view their selfies and make judgments about their personalities.

The researchers based the study off 13 different selfie aspects: whether the person had a duckface, pressed lips together, looked straight at the camera, exhibited emotional positivity, held the camera high or to the side, showed their full face or body, showed the background location (either public or private), and whether the photo was photoshopped. They found that people who scored higher levels of agreeableness were more likely to emit a positive vibe from their selfies, as well as hold the camera lower. People who were conscientious, meanwhile, were more likely to hide the location of their selfie, hinting that they were concerned about privacy. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, people who pulled duckfaces were more likely to be associated with neuroticism and emotional instability.

A person’s selfie corresponded well with their own self-evaluation of their personality, the researchers found. However, the students who guessed personality traits based on the selfies weren’t always as accurate. They were only spot-on when it came to guessing openness and extraversion.

So while others might not always accurately guess your personality traits from your selfies, maybe it’s food for thought to note that the angle, lighting, background, and facial expression of your selfie may reveal more about your personality than you think.

Source: Qiu L, Lu J, Yang S, Qu W, Zhu T. What does your selfie say about you? Computers in Human Behavior. 2015.

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