Dr. Chris Barry, from the Department of Psychology, along with WSU psychology students and collaborators from the University of Southern Mississippi conducted a novel experiment with hundreds of actual Instagram users to determine if there are certain types of self-image posts that cause others to make snap judgements about the user’s personality.

They analyzed data from two groups of students for the study. The first group consisted of 30 undergraduates from a public university in the southern United States. The participants were asked to complete a personality questionnaire and agreed to let the researchers use their 30 most recent Instagram posts for the experiment.  The posts were coded based on whether they were selfies or posies as well as what was depicted in each image, such as physical appearance, affiliation with others, events, activities or accomplishments.

The second group of students consisted of 119 undergraduates from a university in the northwestern United States. This group was asked to rate the Instagram profiles of the first group on 13 attributes such as self-absorption, low self-esteem, extraversion and success using only the images from those profiles.  Barry’s team then analyzed the data to determine if there were visual cues in the first group of students’ photos that elicited consistent personality ratings from the second group.

Their work shows that individuals who post a lot of selfies are almost uniformly viewed as less likeable, less successful, more insecure and less open to new experiences than individuals who share a greater number of posed photos (posies) taken by someone else.  The students who posted more posies were viewed as being relatively higher in self-esteem, more adventurous, less lonely, more outgoing, more dependable, more successful and having the potential for being a good friend while the reverse was true for students with a greater number of selfies on their feed.

The study, titled ‘Check Your Selfie Before You Wreck Your Selfie: Personality Ratings of Users as a Function of Self-Image Posts and published in Journal of Research in Personality has been the subject of numerous stories in print, television, and radio outlets across the U.S. and internationally, including features in The Seattle Times, The Huffington Post, KRON in San Francisco, KING5 in Seattle, and CBS television affiliates throughout the U.S.  https://news.wsu.edu/2019/08/20/selfie-versus-posie/