Facebook photo trumps text profile

March 10, 2012 at 9:21 PM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 10 (UPI) -- Photos seem to be the primary way people get impressions of others on social networking sites such as Facebook, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Brandon Van Der Heide, an assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University in Columbus, said the exception is when a photo is out of the ordinary or shows someone in a negative light.

"In that case, people do use profile text to help interpret what kind of person is shown in the profile," Van Der Heide said in a statement. "People will accept a positive photo of you as showing how you really are. But if the photo is odd or negative in any way, people want to find out more before forming an impression."

Van Der Heide and graduate students Jonathan D'Angelo and Erin Schumaker had 195 college students viewed a mock Facebook profile of someone who was supposed to be a fellow student. The profile included a photo and a written "about me" statement.

The participants viewed one of four profiles. In one, both the photo (a person shown socializing with friends) and the text ("I'm happiest hanging out with a big group of friends") suggested an extrovert. A second profile had both a photo (a person alone on a park bench) and text ("I'm happiest curled up in my room with a good book") that suggested an introvert.

The study published in the Journal of Communication found when the extroverted photo was shown, it barely mattered what the profile text said -- what mattered was the photograph.

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