BY: KATE SLOAN
Some say snapping selfies are a sign of narcissism. While researchers have found correlations between selfies and self-absorption, according to some recent research, certain types of selfies are also connected to other personality traits.
A November 2015 study in Computers in Human Behavior found that “duckface” – the pouty-lipped expression worn in many a selfie since the MySpace age – correlates positively with neuroticism. In the “Big Five” system of personality categorization, neuroticism is one of the five personality traits considered universal across cultures, along with openness to new experience, agreeability, conscientiousness and extraversion. This perspective describes neurotic people as anxious, pessimistic, insecure and emotionally unstable.
The researchers behind the study found that people who make a duckface in their selfies are likely to not only be neurotic, but also be perceived as neurotic by those who look at their pictures. The authors argue that duckface may be viewed as a sign of moodiness. Certainly, the “trout pout” sends a very different message than a typical “Say cheese!” smile.
A correlation was also found between neuroticism and selfie-editing in Photoshop. It’s possible that neurotic individuals worry more about how they look, so they spend more time fixing their imperfections before posting pictures. People perceived as being neurotic were also likelier to only show part of their face in their selfies, further suggesting that these people tend to be insecure about their appearance.
The “duckface” correlates positively with neuroticism. In the “Big Five” system of personality categorization, neuroticism is one of the five personality traits considered universal across cultures.
That raises the question, “Why even take selfies in the first place if you’re not proud of how you look?” One explanation is that selfies allow us to represent ourselves however we like, in ways that more traditional photos do not. We can’t carefully choose our poses and facial expressions in candid photos taken by other people, nor can we easily dress them up with Instagram filters and Photoshop tricks. The authors of the selfie study claim that selfies, including duckface, contain unique “cues” not seen in other kinds of photos and that these cues may represent new ways of expressing one’s personality that didn’t exist prior to the advent of the selfie.
A KnowYourMeme article on duckface offers an explanation for why this face has become so popular, especially among women. In a Reddit thread, a user theorized that the expression acts as “kind of a mock sexy” – a purposely over-the-top caricature of glamour. “It’s a way to try saying, ‘Hey, I’m so secure that I make this silly face and can laugh about it with my friends, but it’s only because I’m really insecure and hope that this can hopefully get you attracted to me via false confidence,’” the thread suggests.
Duckface, then, might be more than just a goofy pout some people pull in photos. For some, it might be a defense mechanism, a method of self-expression or a hint of angst seething below the surface. It’s a trend that’s received a lot of flak for being ugly or silly, but perhaps that vitriol is an intuitive response to the deeper meaning of duckface: that it’s a prettily-posed mask hiding unsettling emotions.