friendship

What your profile picture says about your personality.

Your profile pictures on social media could be giving away a lot about your personality, says a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania.

Leqi Liu and colleagues examined the profile images of 66,000 Twitter users, and estimated their personality based on the content of their tweets. They found that each personality trait – based on the Big Five model (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) – had a specific style of profile picture posting.

And the results were fascinating.

Those users high in openness to experience, a trait defined by active imagination, sensitivity, a preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity, were most likely to have profile pictures that didn’t include faces. According to the researchers, this reflects a desire to not conform with what’s expected.

These types of people also tended to have high quality profile photos. They were less blurry, more sharp, and had increased saturation. They were more likely to be black and white, and have an ‘artistic’ element.

We found so many beautiful fabrics at the market yesterday! ????: @valoriedarling

A photo posted by Lauren Conrad (@laurenconrad) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Conscientiousness, the personality trait associated with being organised, thorough, careful and self-disciplined, was correlated with profile pictures of a single face. Those high in conscientiousness preferred bright, natural and colourful pictures, showing a facial expression reflecting a positive mood.

Liu and colleagues claim that a reasonable explanation for this finding is that conscientious individuals like to do what’s expected of them, and typically, a person is expected to show primarily positive emotions on social media.

I didn’t know ‘kangaroo selfies’ were a thing. But they are and this is one. A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

For people high in extraversion, a trait marked by sociability, talkativeness, and excitability, profile photos are particularly colourful. Out of all the personality types, extroverts show the strongest preference for colourful images. They also prefer images with more people, and while they do like to represent faces, they also show more of their bodies and/or the environment than other personality types. Like conscientious individuals, extroverts tend to have profile pictures reflecting positive emotions.

ADVERTISEMENT

One slightly unexpected finding was the extraversion was negatively correlated with….wearing glasses. That is, there was a positive relationship between introversion and wearing glasses in your profile picture.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Because we’re HAPPY!!!

A photo posted by Khloé (@khloekardashian) on

Agreeableness, defined by those characteristics perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, and considerate, was associated with similar behaviours to extroverts. Agreeable people liked moderately colourful pictures with faces in them. However, their images tend to be blurry, and cluttered as opposed to simple. They respect the rule of thirds, unlike other personality traits, and tend to look happy, very rarely reflecting negative emotions.

Finally, individuals high in neuroticism, a trait characterised by the experience of negative emotions and emotional instability, had uncolourful profile pictures. Their images are simple, don’t conform to the rule of thirds, and don’t tend to include faces. When faces are included, they are often wearing glasses. A lack of positive emotions is also found in profile pictures belonging to neurotic individuals. However, these expressions are usually neutral, rather than negative. The researchers suggested that this might reflect the fact that negative emotions strongly go against the social norm on social media.

ADVERTISEMENT

Just practicing our petty punk ass thuggery A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

The study is an appealing one, given that social media profile pictures are the central way for a person to represent who they are online. Of course, people often purposely misrepresent themselves, putting forward a more favourable image than they would in real life.

Profile pictures are likely to be largely informed by social norms, like appearing ubiquitously happy, interesting and popular. But it’s fascinating that despite these norms, personality traits still play some role in predicting the type of profile picture you’ll choose.

So, what’s your current profile picture?