People who take selfies think they are better looking than they really are, says science


Astronauts are doing it. A-list actors are doing it. Elephants are doing it.

Where once there were befuddled looks, now there's begrudging acceptance at seeing someone take a selfie, that most narcissistic of 21st century portraiture.

You know the textbook pose - lips pursed like Donald Duck with a food allergy, cheeks gaunter than Matthew McConaughey going for an Oscar, smartphone held aloft to achieve the most flattering light - but deep down, on a subliminal level, are the people who take selfies actually tricked into thinking they’re more attractive than they really are?

That’s the question one team of researchers at the University of Toronto have been trying to get to the bottom of, conducting a study of 198 college kids - 100 of whom claimed to regularly take selfies, 98 saying they rarely, if ever took them.

Hoping to address a theory called ‘self-favouring bias’, which goes by the notion that being in control of your environment (i.e. choosing, deleting, retaking, adding a filter) makes you more likely to think of yourself more highly than others do, the group ran a study with a large group of college kids - 100 of whom claimed to regularly take selfies, 98 saying they rarely, if ever took them – asking each one to take a selfie, and also have a separate photo taken by an impartial spectator.

From there, selfie-takers were then asked to judge their own attractiveness, with 178 independent people recruited on the internet were asked to judge the pictures as well.

Somewhat damningly, even participants who rarely or never took selfies believed themselves far more good looking than the independent judges saw them, even insisting that the selfies they'd taken as opposed to the normal photo showed them in their best light. 

Not only that - the independent recruits thought the photos they took made the subject look more attractive than the selfies, suggesting the self-favouring bias isn’t just limited to people with a vein habit of taking selfies.

These independent recruits also had one more thought: they believed selfies taken by habitual selfie-takers showed more narcissism than the selfies taken by those who occasionally took selfies.

But then you probably only had to go onto your Facebook timeline to work that one out.