Study Finds People Primarily Use Profile Photos on Facebook to Form Impressions of People

Posted on March 8, 2012

Researchers at Ohio State University have found that Facebook users typically rely on profile photographs to form an impression of people. Brandon Van Der Heide, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, says, "Photos seem to be the primary way we make impressions of people on social networking sites."

The researchers say an exception is if your photograph portrays you in a negative light. If the photo of you is negative, then people will turn to the text in your profile to figure you out.

Van Der Heide says, "People will accept a positive photo of you as showing how you really are. But if the photo is odd or negative in any way, people want to find out more before forming an impression."

The study involved college students viewing mock Facebook profiles. They were asked to rate how extraverted they thought the student in the profile was on a scale of 1 to 7. You can read more about the study here on the Ohio State website.

Van Der Heidi says, "If the photograph fits that image, people have little reason to question his or her judgments about this person's characteristics. But if the photo shows something we didn't expect - someone who is more introverted, for example - viewers want to read the text and do a little more interpretation."

It sounds like if you want people to read your profile you should post a grumpy or confusing photograph of yourself. Then people will be forced to actually read your profile to determine what kind of person you are.

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