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#ScientistsWhoSelfie: researchers use social media to study how social media affects perceptions of warmth

“Social media channels, like Instagram, provide an exciting opportunity for scientists to improve their public image”

11 May 2019 by Selina Powell

A new study has explored the impact of taking selfies on a scientist’s perceived warmth.

The research, which was published in PLOS One, involved showing a group of 1620 participants a series of images collected from the “Scientist selfies” rotation-curation account. 

Some of the images portrayed a scientific setting or piece of equipment and were attributed to a scientist by name.

Other pictures showed a smiling female or male scientist looking at the camera in a scientific setting.

They survey group were then asked a series of questions about the scientists pictured in the image (or credited with the image) and their perceptions of scientists generally.

Scientists that selfie
Image credit: Jen Burgess @isolinestudios

Researchers found that people who saw images of smiling faces evaluated the scientists in the pictures and scientists generally as significantly warmer than those who saw images that did not include people.

Becky Carmichael, a co-author on the study from Louisiana State University, explained: “Social media channels, like Instagram, provide an exciting opportunity for scientists to improve their public image.”

“We wondered whether seeing the faces of friendly, honest scientists sharing glimpses of their everyday work in the science lab or field could help change the problematic stereotypes that scientists are competent but not warm,” she said.

Scientists who share selfies on social media come across as:
  • Relatable

    50%
  • Distracted from their work

    0%
  • Modern and tech savvy

    37%
  • Too informal

    12%

Image credit: Pixabay 

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