Study Links Selfies To Narcissism And Psychopathy

01/12/2015 08:15 am ET | Updated Jan 12, 2015
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Love 'em or hate 'em, selfies are harmless fun -- right? Maybe not. According to new research, selfies can say a lot about your personality, and not in a good way.

In a recent Ohio State University study, men who posted more photos of themselves online scored higher in measures of narcissism and psychopathy.

The researchers asked 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 to fill out an online questionnaire asking about their photo posting habits on social media. The survey included questions about how often they posted photos of themselves on social media, and about whether and how they edited photos before posting. The participants were also asked to fill out standard questionnaires measuring anti-social behaviors and self-objectification (the tendency to overly focus on one's appearance).

The researchers found that posting more photos was correlated with both narcissism and psychopathy. Editing photos, however, was only associated with narcissism, and not psychopathy. Narcissism measures inflated self-image (often motivated by underlying insecurity), while psychopathy involves a lack of empathy and impulsive behavior.

"That makes sense because psychopathy is characterized by impulsivity," the study's lead author, Jesse Fox, said in a statement. "They are going to snap the photos and put them online right away. They want to see themselves. They don't want to spend time editing."

These findings don't mean that men who post selfies are actually narcissists or psychopaths, it does mean that they scored higher than others in these anti-social traits, although they were still within the normal range of behavior.

Previous studies have also linked heavy Facebook use with low self-esteem and narcissism. According to one study, it's not so much spending an excessive amount of time on Facebook so much as having an unrealistically large number of friends that is correlated with having a narcissistic personality.

The Ohio State study also found that editing photos of oneself was associated with higher levels of self-objectification.

“With the growing use of social networks, everyone is more concerned with their appearance," Fox said in the statement. "That means self-objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women.”

The findings were published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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