Profile photos and judging personality

Individuals are likely to form impressions of others simply by the photographs they present of themselves, new research has suggested. Investigators from Ohio State University found that people often require just a profile image - and no words - on social networking sites such as Facebook in order to make judgements on those in question.

It was demonstrated that college students in the US who saw a person having fun with friends in the snapshot would be more likely to believe that someone to be extroverted, regardless of whether or not their description showed them to be a people-person.

Brandon Van Der Heide, an Assistant Professor of Communication at the learning institute - which was established in 1870 - noted photos have now become the primary way in which people form impressions of other users on such portals.

However, when a shot portrays a person in an unusual manner, this could lead to individuals turning to text in a bid to glean more information, Mr Van Der Heide pointed out, adding: "If the photo is odd or negative in any way, people want to find out more before forming an impression."

Dr Abigael San, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, commented: "A picture says a thousand words. Our tendency as human beings to express meaning through pictures has long predated the development of written language.

"Our minds are able to process images much more quickly than understanding text. The findings of the research conducted in Ohio are consistent with the phenomenon that significantly more information is understood through non-verbal communication in an interaction, as compared to what is said. 

"In many ways, actions speak louder than words. Whilst unusual profile pictures required further consideration before an opinion was formed, the fact that a confident and more attractive picture can elicit a quick positive response without the need for further scrutiny, demonstrates that traditional advice about the importance of first impressions is still very much relevant in the digital world. 

"It would seem that whatever the century, the same social rules still apply."