The social media profile picture could be the window to your soul.
That’s according to a group of researchers who have investigated the link between people’s profile pictures and their personality traits.
According to the study, social media users can be grouped into one of the Big Five model personality traits – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – based on their profile picture alone.
For instance, extraverts are more likely to have a profile picture with several faces in it. They are also likely to portray a younger image either through the use of a picture from years ago or with them posing with younger people.
The study used the Twitter profiles of more than 66,000 people – making it larger than most psychological studies – while 429 users filled in a standard personality questionnaire and found “significant differences in profile picture choice between personality traits”.
So the question is, what category does your profile pic fall in and how much is it giving away to other social media users, not to mention future employers or advertisers?
The analysis revealed that these users are “likely to have profile pictures other than faces, which reveals non-conformance with what is expected”.
Photos are also likely to be more aesthetically pleasing and use an artistic quality such as grey scale. Users are often seen wearing glasses, but not sunglasses, show less emotion and the ratio of the face size is usually larger than others.
The study describes conscientiousness as the personality trait associated with orderliness, planned behaviour and self discipline and for that reason these users “prefer the expected behaviour”. A picture showing the users face only is therefore most expected and they are more likely to appear as happy, smiling or positive than any other trait.
They don’t tend to use grey scale images, they rarely wear glasses and the size of the face is usually smaller. The pictures also make users appear older than they actually are.
Extraversion is a trait marked by engagement with the outside world and “these type of users are correlated the highest out of all traits with colourful images”. An extravert’s picture tends to have many faces in it – which is different from all personalities – and they usually present as a younger age using a picture from when they were younger or surrounded by younger people.
The strongest correlation compares to other traits is that the ratio of their faces is smaller – although that might be because they tend to have more people in the picture.
This trait is described as being “characterised by social harmony and co-operation”. These users like to have profile pictures with faces in them and the correlation to colour is opposite to openness. That means they usually present colourful profiles, but the pictures are usually low in sharpness, blurry, bright and tend to be cluttered and not that aesthetically pleasing.
Profile pictures for neurotic users are perhaps unsurprisingly anti-correlated with colourfulness and are opposite to the traits displayed by agreeableness and extraversion users. The study found that “overall, neurotic people display simple, uncolourful images with negative colour emotions”.
It also found that neurotic users tend not to use faces as a profile picture and when they do they have the strongest correlation to people who are displayed wearing reading glasses. When a face is present in the picture it is also “significantly larger” than other users’ pictures.