A new study from the University in Singapore shows that a selfie could reveal much more than a tendency towards narcissism. The research, to be published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that these 21st-century self-portraits might actually shed some light on the photographer's personality.
Researchers asked a group of 123 selfie-takers who used a Chinese blogging site called Sina Weibo to share their photos and complete a personality questionnaire. The researchers looked at several aspects of each photo, including whether or not people made a "duckface," how they held the camera, whether or not they showed their full faces, bodies, or backgrounds, how much they altered the photo, and whether or not they looked directly at the camera.
Researchers found that those who made the famous "duckface" were seen as emotionally unstable and possibly neurotic. People who were highly conscientious tended to conceal their location in their selfie, implying they could have privacy concerns. Those who were highly agreeable held the camera lower, and those who were most open to new experiences often laughed or smiled in their photo. When they compared their findings with the participants' self-evaluations, they saw that people were relatively accurate when analyzing their own personality traits. However, when they asked other students to analyze the selfie-takers' personalities, they found the students could only correctly identify characteristics of openness and extraversion.
While the study only focuses on people from one culture, the authors believe it has greater implications for machine recognition. "By identifying valid cues related to selfie owners' personality traits, our research provides important information for future work to improve the accuracy of human or machine prediction of personality from selfies," they wrote.