Facebook Photos May Indicate Cultural Influences

June 8, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Facebook profile photos may reveal deeply rooted cultural traits in addition to individual preferences, a U.S. study has revealed.

The researchers analyzed profile photos of over 500 Facebook users from the United States and East Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan).

The results show that profile pictures of Westerners focus more on an individual’s face, which occupied a greater proportion of the photo. However, those of East Asians focused more on environment and context, with less area dedicated to the individual.

Additionally, East Asians were less emotionally expressive than Westerners, who overall smiled with greater intensity in their photos.

These findings correlate with previous research, suggesting that culture impacts how we process information and perceive the world.

“We believe these findings relate to a cultural bias to be more individualistic and independent in the U.S. and more communal and interdependent in Asia,” said researcher Denise Park of the University of Texas–Dallas in a press release.

The researchers also discovered that cultural influences impacted how study participants presented themselves online regardless of race. For instance, Americans staying in Taiwan and Taiwanese in the United States adjusted their profile images to suit the preferences of their host country.

The study was published in the International Journal of Psychology.

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