The Science of Selfies: How Photo Perspective Reveals Our Intentions

Have you ever wondered why some people take selfies while others prefer to capture the scene from their own eyes? A new study reveals that the perspective of a photo reflects what we want to remember and share about an event.

Why We Take Selfies

The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, involved six experiments with 2,113 participants. The researchers found that first-person photos, which show the scene as it looks from one’s own eyes, best represent the physical experience of an event. For example, if you want to remember how it felt to ride a roller coaster, you might take a first-person photo of the track and the sky.

The Science of Selfies

But third-person photos, which include oneself in the scene, better depict the deeper meaning of the event in one’s life. For example, if you want to remember how it felt to graduate from college, you might take a selfie with your diploma and your friends.

The researchers also found that people tend to enjoy their photos less when the perspective doesn’t match their purpose for taking the photo. For instance, if you take a selfie to capture the physical experience of an event, you might feel less satisfied with your photo than if you take a first-person photo.

The study challenges the common assumption that people post selfies on social media platforms like Instagram mainly for self-promotion. Instead, it suggests that selfies can document the bigger meaning of a moment in one’s life.

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How Photo Perspective Reveals Our Intentions

“We found that people have a natural intuition about which perspective to take to capture what they want out of the photo,” said lead author Zachary Niese, a PhD graduate of The Ohio State University, now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

“These photos with you in it can document the bigger meaning of a moment,” said study co-author Lisa Libby, professor of psychology at Ohio State. “It doesn’t have to be vanity.”

The study may help us understand why people choose to include themselves in some photos and not others. It may also help us appreciate the different perspectives that people use to capture their memories and share their stories.


Capturing the Meaning of Moments: The Science of Selfies

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