Taking the perfect selfie: Investigating the impact of perspective on the perception of higher cognitive variables

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© 2017 Schneider and Carbon. Taking selfies is now becoming a standard human habit. However, as a social phenomenon, research is still in the fledgling stage and the scientific framework is sparse. Selfies allow us to share social information with others in a compact format. Furthermore, we are able to control important photographic and compositional aspects, such as perspective, which have a strong impact on the assessment of a face (e.g., demonstrated by the height-weight illusion, effects of gaze direction, faceism-index). In Study 1, we focused on the impact of perspective (left/right hemiface, above/below vs. frontal presentation) on higher cognitive variables and let 172 participants rate the perceived attractiveness, helpfulness, sympathy, dominance, distinctiveness, and intelligence, plus important information on health issues (e.g., body weight), on the basis of 14 3D faces. We could show that lateral snapshots yielded higher ratings for attractiveness compared to the classical frontal view. However, this effect was more pronounced for left hemifaces and especially female faces. Compared to the frontal condition, 30° right hemifaces were rated as more helpful, but only for female faces while faces viewed from above were perceived as significant less helpful. Direct comparison between left vs. right hemifaces revealed no effect. Relating to sympathy, we only found a significant effect for 30° right male hemifaces, but only in comparison to the frontal condition. Furthermore, female 30° right hemifaces were perceived as more intelligent. Relating to body weight, we replicated the so-called "height-weight illusion." Other variables remained unaffected. In Study 2, we investigated the impact of a typical selfie-style condition by presenting the respective faces from a lateral (left/right) and tilted (lower/higher) vantage point. Most importantly, depending on what persons wish to express with a selfie, a systematic change of perspective can strongly optimize their message; e.g., increasing their attractiveness by shooting from above left, and in contrast, decreasing their expressed helpfulness by shooting from below. We could further extent past findings relating to the height-weight illusion and showed that an additional rotation of the camera positively affected the perception of body weight (lower body weight). We discuss potential explanations for perspective-related effects, especially gender-related ones.




Schneider, T. M., & Carbon, C. C. (2017). Taking the perfect selfie: Investigating the impact of perspective on the perception of higher cognitive variables. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00971

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