Is your headshot making the wrong impression?

The images we post online can affect us in unexpected ways.

First impressions count, but what does your face say about the real you?

The headshot you use on your CV, social media or networking site is vitally important. Now a US study has confirmed that subtle differences in photos of the same face can spark vastly different assumptions.

“The findings suggest that the images we post online can affect us in unexpected and undesired ways, subtly biasing other people’s decisions,” says study author Alexander Todorov of Princeton University.

Todorov and Columbia University’s Jenny Porter asked participants to view and rate headshots on people’s characteristics including attractiveness, competence, creativity, cunning, extroversion, meanness, trustworthiness, or intelligence.

Several headshots of the same individuals were used, taken front on, in similar lighting, but with slight differences in expression.

The results, published in Psychological Science, revealed responses to different photos of the same person were as varied as those for photos of different people. The context in which photos were viewed, for example, if they were for an online dating site or for a work-related pitch, also affected perceptions.

So how does this affect our personal and working lives?

Obviously there isn’t a clear link between a photo and your personality. It’s unlikely a single snapshot could ever accurately reflect the full range of any individual’s personality.

“The face isn’t a still image frozen in time but rather a constantly shifting stream of expressions that convey different mental states,” write Todorov and Porter.

But for the record, people who are smiling in a photo are rated as more extroverted and trustworthy.

This article is from the August 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.

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