Daters are being warned not to choose their own profile picture if they want to find romance online.
New research has found that strangers are far better at picking the most flattering images to give a more favourable first impression to prospective suitors.
The findings appear to contradict previous research which showed that people tend to portray themselves more favorably than others.
“Our findings suggest that people make poor choices when selecting flattering images of themselves for online profile pictures, which affects other people’s perception of them,” said Dr David White, lead author from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
“This effect is likely to have a substantial impact on online interactions, the impressions people form and the decisions they base on them, including whether to employ, date, befriend or even vote for someone.”
People make inferences about an individual’s character and personality within a split second of seeing a photograph of their face, so choosing the correct image is crucial to dating success.
To find out whether selecting one’s own profile picture might have a positive or negative effect on first impressions, the researchers asked 102 students to select two out of 12 photos of their own face that they were most or least likely to use as a profile picture on dating or social networking sites.
Participants were then asked to do the same for 12 images of a randomly selected stranger who had participated in the study previously. Their choices were then shown to a third group who were asked to rate the subjects on how attractive, trustworthy, dominant, confident or competent the person in them appeared.
The team found that the images people had selected for themselves made a less favorable impression than images selected by others.
“Dating images appear more attractive, and professional images appear more competent,” said Dr White.
“Future research needs to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the choices people make when selecting profile pictures to find out why people seem to have a limited ability to select the most flattering images of themselves.”
The research was published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.