What makes a Facebook profile pic more likable?

U. MISSOURI (US) — People with Facebook profile photos that include social cues are perceived to be more physically and socially attractive than people with simple headshots for profile pics.

Photos with social cues include additional information about who a person is and what they do. For example, a photo with a social cue of an athlete would be a picture of that person playing sports. Likewise, a social cue for a musician may be a photo of that person playing an instrument.

Comments on profile pictures also affected the level of perceived attractiveness—physically, socially, and professionally—researchers report in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.


Facebook profile photos are the first photos visible on a user’s profile. Other Facebook users are able to post comments about each profile photo, which are visible to anyone who views the photo.

“People tend to rely more on other-generated information than self-generated information when forming impressions,” says study co-author Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri.

“In other words, opinions of other people matter more than the target person’s own self-presentation,” adds Hong. “Thus, for social networking users concerned about forming a desired impression, being aware of other-generated information about oneself is paramount in the goal of achieving a positive self-presentation.”

For the study, Hong showed different Facebook profile pictures of the same person to more than a hundred college students. Each picture varied in social cues and the quality of comments.

“These findings show how important it is to present yourself strategically on Facebook,” Hong says. “If you want to be perceived positively by people who view your profile page, including friends and potential employers, it is important to include profile pictures with positive social cues.

“No matter what the profile owner does to tailor their Facebook page, comments left on their page from other users should be monitored as well. Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic.

“To maximize the effects of positive self-presentation on Facebook, I would recommend using profile pictures with extensive social cues to show who and what you are in a positive way while also keeping track of what others say about you.”

Source: University of Missouri