Study: Close-Up Profile Pic is Ruining Your Game

You might be losing Facebook friends and alienating potential OK Cupid matches based solely on the distance of your face from the camera in photos.

Scientists at Cal Tech have found that people judge the subjects of photographs to be less trustworthy, less attractive and less competent in close-up shots than they do in pictures taken from farther away.

"We found that photographs of faces taken from within personal space elicit lower investments in an economic trust game, and lower ratings of social traits (such as trustworthiness, competence, and attractiveness), compared to photographs taken from a greater distance," researchers wrote in the study's abstract.

Test subjects were shown 36 photographs, two each of 18 individuals. One was taken from two feet away and the other was taken from seven feet away. The findings show a person was consistently judged as less attractive and more untrustworthy in their close-up. Scientists chose those two distances because they are on opposite sides of the personal space bubble, defined as three to four feet.

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The reason for the difference in perception is that photos taken from close proximity are geometrically warped. The effect is so subtle that it's imperceptible to the viewer, but has a significant impact on his or her impression. The study was inspired by one Caltech professor's realization that Renaissance painters often purposefully warped their model's faces to make them feel closer or farther away from the viewer.

You can read more about their findings in the study, "Perspective Distortion from Interpersonal Distance Is an Implicit Visual Cue for Social Judgments of Faces," published this week in the online journal PLoS One. Now go take down that headshot.

[@tessaestuart / tstuart@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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