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Study: Selfie-takers viewed as self-absorbed, less successful

By Danielle Haynes
Study: Selfie-takers viewed as self-absorbed, less successful
Researchers say selfie-takers may be viewed more negatively than those who post posed photos, because the latter feel more natural. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- People who post more selfies than posed photographs to their social media accounts tend to be viewed more negatively by others, a new study said Tuesday.

Researchers at Washington State University conducted the study to test a theory that people who take and post a lot of selfies to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter are more narcissistic than those who don't.

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For the research, a group of undergraduate students at a college in the Northwest rated Instagram profiles and posts of 30 undergrads at a college in the South. None of the students was familiar with the posters they were rating.

The students were asked to evaluate the posts on a number of attributes, including self-absorption, low self-esteem, extraversion and success, based only on the images. The WSU researchers, along with collaborators from the University of Southern Mississippi, evaluated the responses and determined what types of photos elicited negative versus positive ratings.

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Selfies received consistently negative ratings, while posed photos -- which researchers called "posies" in their report, published in the Journal of Research in Personality -- received more positive responses.

"Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive," said Chris Barry, WSU professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media."

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Those who posted posies were assumed to have higher self-esteem and be more adventurous, less lonely and more outgoing, dependable and successful. They also were viewed as more likely to be a good friend.

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Students who appeared older and those who posted photos showing off their physical appearance -- like flexing in a mirror -- also earned negative ratings.

Researchers said they believe selfies may have received more negative ratings because the group rated fewer selfies than posies. They said posed photos also may appear more natural to viewers.

"While there may be a variety of motives behind why people post self-images to Instagram, how those photos are perceived appears to follow a more consistent pattern," Barry said. "While the findings of this study are just a small piece of the puzzle, they may be important to keep in mind before you make that next post."

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