There are pictures we think are our most flattering.
Then there are pictures which are our most flattering (according to strangers).
Unfortunately, they’re not the same pictures.
That’s the conclusion of a recent scientific study published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications called, “Choosing face: The curse of self in profile image selection.”
Pictures Taken From Facebook
To start, the researchers gathered 12 images of 102 students (a total of 1224 images) from Facebook.
They cropped each photo to frame the face at a fixed aspect ratio. Then all were resized to 200 × 300 pixels, as in the examples below.
Participants Asked to Rate Their Own Photos
The undergraduates were then asked to select which of the 12 images they were most and least likely to use as a main profile pic for Facebook, LinkedIn, and dating apps/sites.
They also rated the images for the traits of attractiveness, trustworthiness, dominance, competence, and confidence.
Participants Asked to Rate a Stranger’s Photos
Finally, each participant was given a set of 12 images of someone the participant didn’t know (i.e. a stranger) of the same gender as them.
Again, they were asked to select which of the 12 images they would most and least likely choose for a main profile pic for Facebook, LinkedIn, and dating apps/sites.
Then they rated the stranger’s images individually for the traits of attractiveness, trustworthiness, dominance, competence, and confidence.
More Stranger Ratings
Each image was rated again by 160 strangers for the traits of attractiveness, trustworthiness, dominance, competence, and confidence.
Result: By Nature, People Don’t Pick the Most Flattering Photos of Themselves
The pictures people chose for themselves were different from the pictures deemed most flattering by strangers.
Self-selected profile pictures made less favorable impressions than the ones selected by a stranger.
According to the study’s conclusions, we don’t see pictures of ourselves the same way strangers do. And because of that, we’re vulnerable to pick bad ones.
Photofeeler is a tool for testing profile pics, as seen in Time, Forbes, The Today Show, and more. Know for certain how you’re coming across in your business, social, and dating pictures. It’s free to use here.
White, D., Sutherland, C.A.M, Burton, A.L. (2017). Choosing face: The curse of self in profile image selection. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 2:23. DOI 10.1186/s41235-017-0058-3