Key to Attractive Facebook Profile Pictures: Social Cues and Compliments

facebook, social media cues
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If your Facebook profile picture is accompanied by comments from friends telling you how lovely you are, others are likely to agree with them.

That's according to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri who also found that pictures revealing information about who you are and what you do might make you seem more attractive physically, professionally and socially.

For the study, the researchers showed different Facebook profile pictures of the same person to 104 college students, with each picture varying in social cues and the quality of comments. A social cue for an athlete, for example, would be a picture of that person playing sports. The researchers said they found that profile photos including such signals generally were rated more physically and socially attractive than headshots.

The same was true for photos with many positive comments ("Such a beautiful girl, my friend!") compared with pictures accompanied by negative comments ("Maybe put less makeup next time?").

"People tend to rely more on other-generated information than self-generated information when forming impressions," researcher Seoyeon Hong, a University of Missouri doctoral student in journalism, said in a statement. "In other words, opinions of other people matter more than the target person's own self-presentation."

To present oneself in a positive light, Hong recommends posting profile pictures with positive social cues and monitoring friends' comments.

"Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic," she said.

The research was published in the July issue of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.