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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Study: Selfies are perceived far more negatively than ‘posies’

In a new study, people who posted a lot of selfies were generally viewed as less likeable and more lonely.

Kim Kardashian/Instagram
  • A new study examined how people perceive others' Instagram accounts, and whether those perceptions match up with how the posters rate their own personalities.
  • The results show that people react far more positively to "posies," which are photos of the poster taken by another person.
  • Still, it remains unclear exactly why people view selfies relatively negatively.


When checking out someone's photos on social media, what are the factors that determine how you perceive that person? One major factor, according to new research, is who's holding the camera.

In a new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, psychologists found that people who post selfies are far more likely to be perceived negatively than people who post "posies" – photos of the poster taken by another person.

The researchers asked 30 undergraduates to fill out a personality questionnaire and for permission to use 30 of their Instagram photos for an experiment. These 30 Instagram posts were coded based on theme – such as physical appearance, affiliation with others, and accomplishment – and stripped of captions and other text.

Then, the researchers asked a second group of undergraduates to rate the Instagram profiles for 13 attributes, such as self-absorption, self-esteem, loneliness, and successfulness. The results showed that Instagram users who posted more posies than selfies were rated "higher in self-esteem, more adventurous, less lonely, more outgoing, more dependable, relatively fond of trying new things, more successful, more likeable, and as potentially being a good friend," the researchers wrote.

In contrast, users who posted relatively more selfies were rated as "having lower self-esteem, disliking adventure, more lonely, less outgoing, disliking trying new things, less successful, and less likeable."

"Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive," Chris Barry, Washington State University professor of psychology and lead author of the study, told WSU News. "It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media."

Interestingly, the results showed that posting selfies wasn't associated with self-reported narcissism, but posting posies was. Also, having many followers and following many people was associated with narcissism. But in general, the Instagram users' self-reported personality traits didn't match up strongly with how others judged them.

What's the value in studying social media posts? The researchers wrote, "it may be that social media posts are more relevant for understanding how a person is perceived by others than for what they convey about the person's personality."

Still, it remains unclear exactly why people react negatively to selfies and positively to posies. The researchers suggested it might be because posies look more natural, similar to how you'd view someone in person. Also, because selfies were relatively rare among the Instagram profiles, seeing one might signal something potentially strange about the poster.

One interesting area for future research would be to examine whether people react similarly negatively to selfies posted by celebrities. Would they also be seen as lonely and less likable? Or would people perceive them differently because they wield a high level of prestige in society?

"While there may be a variety of motives behind why people post self‑images to Instagram, how those photos are perceived appears to follow a more consistent pattern," Barry told WSU News. "While the findings of this study are just a small piece of the puzzle, they may be important to keep in mind before you make that next post."

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

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