Looking to start a conversation with your teen? Check out our take on the science of selfies.
Why do your selfies look weird? It turns out it’s not just because you’re twenty years past your prime.
There is an actual scientific reason why your selfies look odd to you. It has to do with the fact that you’re accustomed to viewing yourself in a mirror. When you’re applying makeup or shaving, you're looking at an image of yourself that is flipped, a literal “mirror image” of your actual features.
Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and the author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, maintains that people don't really know what they look like. They know what they look like in a mirror. In fact, the way we look at ourselves is the opposite of the way other people see us.
Because human faces aren’t perfectly symmetrical, this makes a difference.
Looking at yourself in the mirror becomes a firm impression. You have that familiarity. Familiarity breeds liking. You’ve established a preference for that look of your face.
So when we see a selfie we're getting a look at the way other people see us, and that can be disconcerting.
There's even more to our strange-looking selfies than the mirror effect. There’s a little bit of mathematics at work.
Often incorrectly attributed to lens distortion, the way selfies exaggerate certain features is more a matter of geometry, as Daniel Baker, a lecturer in psychology at the University of York, explains on his blog. The parts of your face that are closer to the camera seem larger than other features in comparison to non-selfie photographs, where the distance from the camera to your face is longer and has more of a flattening effect on your face.