This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

 How often do you take selfies, and what does this say about your – ahem – selfiesteem?

Never – or maybe once a year; Rarely – maybe one or two a month; Often – at least one a week.

And when you do take a selfie (assuming you’ve taken at least one ever), how (a) attractive and (b) likeable do you think you come across in the picture, on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 7 (Very).

If you answered that you take selfies “often”, then have I got news for you? I don’t mean to sound rude, but you probably do not come across as quite as attractive, or quite as likeable, as you think. If you answered “rarely” or “never”, then your ratings of your own attractiveness and likability were probably pretty spot on. A study published last year (led by Daniel Re of the University of Toronto in Canada) divided a sample of 200 students into selfie-takers (i.e., those answering “often”) and non-selfie-takers (i.e., those answering “rarely” or “never”). They then invited these participants to take a selfie in the lab, and to rate how attractive and likeable they came across in the picture. They then asked other people to rate those same photos. On average, reported non-selfie-takers rated themselves as only 0.5 points more attractive and likeable (on the 7 point scale) than other people rated them. But self-confessed selfie-takers rated themselves a whopping 1.5 points more attractive and likeable than other people rated them. Interestingly, when asked to rate their own attractiveness and likability in a photo taken by the experimenter, both groups were pretty much spot on. Selfie-enthusiasts over-rate their own attractiveness and like ability, but only in their selfies.

A fully referenced version of this article is available at Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at


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