Research Topic

Understanding Selfies

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About this Research Topic

Since the advent of smartphones equipped with quality cameras and preview screens, individuals have taken photographic self-portraits for purposes that range from social to professional. Smartphone self-portraits, or ‘selfies’ as baptized by social media, are attracting a great deal of media attention. In 2013, ‘selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, a choice that reflects both a marked increase in frequency and a change in prominence and register. Selfies are now regularly taken, posted, and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world on a daily basis, to some degree independent of their gender, age, and geographic origin.

Despite their tremendous reach and popularity, however, selfies have received relatively little attention within the scientific community. Selfie photography constitutes a unique and distinct niche of social networking, the study of which will provide ample novel insight into the motivations, repercussions, and individual differences surrounding our increasingly ‘online’ culture. Selfies also represent a form of pseudo-artistic behaviour accessible to everyone, even those without artistic training, and may offer a new way for people to relate to their bodies and self-image, as well as influence how this image is projected to others.

We propose a Frontiers in Psychology Research Topic to expand the body of empirical and theoretical work on psychological aspects of the new and unexplored phenomenon of the selfie. We invite submissions of empirical studies, methodological papers, and commentaries. Selfies represent a complex, multifaceted behavior with perceptual, cognitive, social, motivational, psychopathological, and pseudo-artistic dimensions. We welcome papers addressing any of these aspects within the scope of psychological research. Specific questions of interest include, but are not limited to:

i) Why do we take selfies? What are the motivational, functional and social factors driving the behavior?
ii) Who takes selfies? Are there differences between genders or across age groups, ethnicities, or cultures?
iii) How do we take selfies? What biological, perceptual, cognitive, and sensorimotor factors affect the act of selfie-taking?
iv) What are selfies for? How might we use selfies as tools in marketing, advertising, journalism, and political campaigning; as sources of data about the mind of the selfie-taker and of selfie-viewers; or as instruments for assessing personality traits, stereotypes, or cultural norms?
v) What kind of psychological object is a selfie? How does it relate to painted self-portraits, to mirror images of ourselves, and/or to our body image?


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be in line with the scope of the specialty and field to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Manuscripts discovered during any stage of peer review to be outside of the scope may be transferred to a suitable section or field, or withdrawn from review.

Since the advent of smartphones equipped with quality cameras and preview screens, individuals have taken photographic self-portraits for purposes that range from social to professional. Smartphone self-portraits, or ‘selfies’ as baptized by social media, are attracting a great deal of media attention. In 2013, ‘selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, a choice that reflects both a marked increase in frequency and a change in prominence and register. Selfies are now regularly taken, posted, and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world on a daily basis, to some degree independent of their gender, age, and geographic origin.

Despite their tremendous reach and popularity, however, selfies have received relatively little attention within the scientific community. Selfie photography constitutes a unique and distinct niche of social networking, the study of which will provide ample novel insight into the motivations, repercussions, and individual differences surrounding our increasingly ‘online’ culture. Selfies also represent a form of pseudo-artistic behaviour accessible to everyone, even those without artistic training, and may offer a new way for people to relate to their bodies and self-image, as well as influence how this image is projected to others.

We propose a Frontiers in Psychology Research Topic to expand the body of empirical and theoretical work on psychological aspects of the new and unexplored phenomenon of the selfie. We invite submissions of empirical studies, methodological papers, and commentaries. Selfies represent a complex, multifaceted behavior with perceptual, cognitive, social, motivational, psychopathological, and pseudo-artistic dimensions. We welcome papers addressing any of these aspects within the scope of psychological research. Specific questions of interest include, but are not limited to:

i) Why do we take selfies? What are the motivational, functional and social factors driving the behavior?
ii) Who takes selfies? Are there differences between genders or across age groups, ethnicities, or cultures?
iii) How do we take selfies? What biological, perceptual, cognitive, and sensorimotor factors affect the act of selfie-taking?
iv) What are selfies for? How might we use selfies as tools in marketing, advertising, journalism, and political campaigning; as sources of data about the mind of the selfie-taker and of selfie-viewers; or as instruments for assessing personality traits, stereotypes, or cultural norms?
v) What kind of psychological object is a selfie? How does it relate to painted self-portraits, to mirror images of ourselves, and/or to our body image?


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be in line with the scope of the specialty and field to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Manuscripts discovered during any stage of peer review to be outside of the scope may be transferred to a suitable section or field, or withdrawn from review.

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