Strangers were better are choosing pictures that made users look attractive, trustworthy and competent / AFP

'When it comes to choosing the best version of ourselves, it may be wise to let other people choose for us'

A new study has found that Facebook users could be better off letting strangers choose their profile pictures for them.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney, in Australia, conducted an experiment in which 102 social media users were asked to select 12 pictures of themselves from Facebook and choose the two they’d be most likely to use as a profile picture across a number of different sites.

These included Facebook, LinkedIn and Match.com.

The participants’ 12-picture selections were then shown to complete strangers, who were told to choose what they thought would make the best profile pictures. 

The researchers then asked internet users to rate how attractive, trustworthy and competent the faces in the pictures looked.

“Strikingly, we show for the first time that participants select more flattering profile images when selecting pictures for other people compared with when selecting for themselves,” reads the report, published in Cognitive Research.

“We found that people selected images of themselves that cast less favorable first impressions than images selected by strangers.” 

The feedback they received showed that, while the participants in the study were pretty good at choosing their own profile pictures based on attractiveness, the strangers’ profile picture choices also managed to express competency and trustworthiness.

“Although our results are surprising in the context of self-enhancement research, they may be related to the finding that people tend to perceive themselves more positively than other people.”

The paper recognises that making the participants download all of the images from Facebook is a limitation of the study, as the findings could “represent the final stage in a hierarchy of selection filters that combine to determine a person’s online appearance”.

After all, users tend to un-tag themselves from what they consider to be unflattering pictures, and only upload ones they think they look good in.

“When it comes to choosing the best version of ourselves, it may be wise to let other people choose for us,” concludes the report.

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