With the right photo, your Facebook text hardly matters

Uploaded a new profile picture recently? Your profile photo tells the viewer what they need to know to make an impression of you, no words are even necessary.

Research was carried out on 195 college students, who viewed a mock Facebook profile of someone they thought was another student. The profile included a photo and an “about me” statement. Participants were required to rate how extroverted they thought the student was on a scale of 1 (least extroverted) to 7 (most extroverted) based on the photo and text.

One of four profiles were viewed. The extrovert profile showed a photo of a person socialising with friends, with the text “I’m happiest hanging out with a big group of friends”. The introvert profile showed a photo of a person alone on a park bench, with the text “I’m happiest curled up in my room with a good book”. The other two profiles were mixed, e.g. the photo suggested an extrovert and the text an introvert.

Researchers wanted to find out which mattered more, the photo or the text in deciding whether a person is an extrovert or an introvert. The results showed the photo to be most important. When the extroverted photo was shown, the text barely mattered in the decision of whether the person was introvert/extrovert. Most participants rated the photo as extrovert. If the photo suggested an introvert, people did pay attention to the text. If the text suggested an introvert then they were rated as one.

In a separate study, 84 college students looked at one of the photos or read a text profile used in the previous experiment above. They had to rely simply on the photo or the text to rate the persons extroversion. Results found that participants who read introverted descriptions rated the person as significantly more introverted than those who only saw the introverted photos, suggesting that text is influential too.

However, this could be down to people paying most attention to information that could be viewed as negative. Text and photos alone are used to build an impression of someone. If your profile picture fits what people expect of you then observers are less likely to look closely at the rest of your profile.



Van Der Heide, B., D’Angelo, J. & Schumaker, E. (2012). The Effects of Verbal Versus Photographic Self-Presentation on Impression Formation in Facebook. Journal of Communication, 62(1), 98. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01617.x




Posted on April 29, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. First appearances alone can be deceiving. A person may perceive to be something that’s suggests to the outside world this is part of their essence, when it really is not. We are adaptive creatures that tend to be whatever our environment needs us to be i.e. introvert or extravert (McClelland, 1998). People do make judgements on what things appear to be, but friendships and human bonding in general takes a little longer.

    Evidence by McKenna and Seidman (2005) although there are more and more people using internet sites to socialize and even form relationships, this method of socializing is preferred is strongly by individuals who can socially anxious or lonely ect. Through internet and social networking people get to be who they want to be. The reason for this is that people are free from the usual constraints of physical appearance and clever photo and a little tx and an individual can be anyone they want.

  2. Back et al (2010) did some research into how Facebook profiles are portrayed and received by others. It was suggested that Facebook profiles are not a true reflection of an individual but instead a creation for what their ideal virtual self is like. Researchers rejected this idea as they found that what Facebook users actually portray is a true reflection of their personality. The study conducted used Facebook users from America and Germany, between the ages of 17-22. All participants took part in personality tests and were measured using the big five. Participants were also rated on their ideal self to see if this was any relation to their Facebook profiles. Facebook profiles were also rated by undergraduate research students to see how profile owners were perceived. Results found that what others rated Facebook profiles as did not relate to each participants ideal self, instead to their actual personality. Researchers suggested that Facebook is an outlet for emotions and expression of an individual, which could be why it is so popular. The research you have mentioned into whether the picture or text matters could relate to this if the study was not using mock Facebook profiles but instead real ones to see if when people are judged as being extrovert or introvert is true to their personalities or not.

    Back, M. D., Stopfer, J. M., Vazire, S., Gaddis, S., Schmukle, S. C., Egloff, B., & Gosling, S. D. (2010). Facebook Profiles Reflect Actual Personality, Not Self-Idealization, Psychological Science, 21, (3), 372-374. doi:10.1177/0956797609360756

  3. In society, we are always going to be judged, whether it’s on our photos, what we write, what we say or what we wear. Many people judge us instantly when we walk down the street, so it’s unlikely to be any different when people look at our facebook pictures. In the future, it would be interesting to look into carrying out studies such as, how people think you look based on conversations on facebook, or do people treat you differently if you put a photo shopped/false image of yourself on facebook. This would further our understanding on how technology skews our perception of others.

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