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Scientists reveal why people like to take selfies

People take selfies to capture the deeper meaning of their experience and not because of vanity, according to scientists.

Selfies, or self-portrait photographs, posted on social media sites such as Instagram have often been associated with seeking audience engagement, through clicks, comments and likes.

But researchers said that their findings, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, indicate people who opt to depict themselves in the scene by taking selfies do so to capture the deeper meaning of the event.

And when they use first-person photography, taking a photo of the scene from one’s own perspective, it is because they want to document a physical experience, the team added.


Lead author Zachary Niese, formerly of The Ohio State University in the US, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Tubingen in Germany, said: “While there is sometimes derision about photo-taking practices in popular culture, personal photos have the potential to help people reconnect to their past experiences and build their self-narratives.”

Lisa Libby, professor of psychology at The Ohio State University, said: “These photos with you in it can document the bigger meaning of a moment.

“It doesn’t have to be vanity.”

As part of the study, the experts performed six experiments involving 2,113 participants.

In one of them, the participants were asked to read a scenario in which they might want to take a photo, such as a day at a beach with a close friend, and rate the importance and meaningfulness of the experience.

The researchers said that the higher the participants rated the meaning of the event to them, the more likely they said they would be to take a photo with themselves in it.

In another experiment, the participants examined photos they posted to their Instagram accounts.

Results showed that if the photo featured the participant in the shot, they were more likely to say the photo made them think of the bigger meaning of the moment.

Meanwhile, the researchers found that photos featuring how the scene looked from their own visual perspective made them think of the physical experience.

The scientists then asked the participants again to open their most recent Instagram post featuring one of their photos.

They were asked whether they were trying to capture the bigger meaning or the physical experience of the moment.

Prof Libby said: “We found that people didn’t like their photo as much if there was a mismatch between the photo perspective and their goal in taking the photo.”

For example, the researchers said, if they said their goal was to capture the meaning of the moment, they liked the photo more if it was taken in third person, with themselves in the image.

Dr Niese said: “This work suggests people also have very personal motives for taking photos.”