Selfies psychology: myth or truth?

the psychology of selfie

by Susan

26 July 2017

With the rapid technological advancements, the world has introduced to people the culture of selfies. What is even more interesting is that selfies started to be analyzed from different perspectives including cultural and psychological. Throughout a long history, people have tried to impress others by how majestic, important or simply tall they are. For example, to seem more important than others and to demonstrate that a particular person is of higher status, he/ she preferred to stand on a pedestal. This traditional wish to seem taller has also been introduced in the way people take selfies, which has become a modern-day impression-management strategy.

Psychology of Selfies

There are certain options of how you can hold your camera in order to get different results from taking selfies.

  • For example, if you hold your smartphone straight out while taking a selfie, the photo will accurately represent how you look.
  • However, if you hold the camera below the face level, you will seem taller, and thus more dominant. Besides, your jaw will be vividly expressed, which is a sign of strength and dominance.
  • On the contrary, if you hold the camera above the face level, you will put more focus on your eyes and will look younger and smaller.

According to Anastasia Makhanova, a psychologist at Florida State University, these different approaches towards taking selfies are related to the evolutionary theory.
Furthermore, it has been estimated that selfies are a part of intrasexual competition. To get more of what it means, let’s also discuss intersexual attraction. Let’s presume that Mike and Emily and Ed and Diane are involved in romantic relationship:

  • When talking of attraction, I would provide such an example: to win Emily’s attention, Mike often buys her flowers and small presents. To make Diane more attracted to Ed, he frequently asks her out for a dinner.
  • Meanwhile, Mike and Ed intrasexually compete with each other as they vie for women’s attention. This competition is called intrasexual as men are competing against each other to prove their dominance so that the better female can choose them.

You might ask, “What does this long theoretic intro lead to?” Actually, in the culture of selfies, manipulation of camera at different angles depends on the target audience. A study that was conducted on Internet dating sites proved that men used low angle shots to demonstrate their dominance.

Nonetheless, this was a merely observational study; that’s why the researchers decided to make a real experiment on campus. They approached different students, gave them a camera, and asked to take selfies. Half of the participants were told that the picture will be shown to representatives of the opposite sex, while another half were told that it will be shown to members of the same sex. The way they took selfies were predictable:

  • Men took selfies from low angle if their audience comprised of men;
  • Women took selfies holding a camera straight out when their audience comprised of women;
  • Men took selfies holding a camera straight if their audience involved women;
  • Men took selfies from below in order to show dominance when their audience supposed to be other men.