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You Have The Wrong Image of Yourself – Mirrors Lie, Selfies Don’t!

You know the phenomenon of not recognising our voices when they are heard outside of our bodies like in recordings while strangers apparently do? The same might be said of our photographs. A new research suggests that strangers are better at ranking which of the pictures of others resemble the latter the most than those to whom the pictures actually belonged. The paper has been published in the British Journal of Psychology.

selfie vs mirror

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, sought to shed light on the issues involved in photo identification for purposes like border control. While the aim of the study seems to be serious enough, one of its findings seems to put into perspective the way we view our own selfies.

From the results generated, it was found that people were 7 % worse at ranking their photos in terms of which one looked the most like them as opposed to strangers. This could explain why some of us find themselves looking much better in mirrors than in selfies. It appears that the reflection we think we see of our own selves is very different to the image seen by others.

“It seems counter-intuitive that strangers who saw the photo of someone’s face for less than a minute were more reliable at judging likeness,” lead researcher Davie White said in a press release. “However, although we live with our own face day-to-day, it appears that knowledge of one’s own appearance comes at a cost. Existing memory representations interfere with our ability to choose images that are good representations or faithfully depict our current appearance.”

130 volunteers were made to rank their Facebook pictures in order of which ones looked the most like them relative to those which resembled them the least. Thereafter, they were made to film a one-minute webcam video of their face, and two still pictures were taken (one smiling and one neutral).

The next step of the experiment entailed 16 strangers who were asked to rank the same pictures. Another group of 73 strangers did an online face-matching test to do the ranking yet again.

The results showed that strangers ranked the 10 profile pictures in a different order than the participants. Moreover, they were 7 % more accurate when compared to the online face-matching test.

Well, first we suck at recognising our own voices, and now we find that we also suck at recognising our own faces.

Why do strangers seem to be recognising our faces better? This might be explained in terms of the mere-exposure effect that dictates that the more familiar we are with something, the more do we tend to prefer it. Our appearance as it looks in the mirror – with reversed facial features – is more familiar to us, and thus we show a preference to it. This can explain why some people prefer their reverse camera selfies.

Another finding was that people were better at evaluating whether a person looked like his photo when he was smiling.

“Given that faces are generally pictured smiling, and these images are rated as being more like familiar faces, it may be beneficial to permit expression in passport photographs,” said White.


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