Why Do We Take Selfies? Psychologists Weigh In

Selfies. Hate them all you want but we can’t stop snapping them.

But, why? Some super smart people,  Janarthanan Balakrishnan of Thiagarajar School of Management, India and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University in the UK did a study to see WTF the motivatiosn were for taking a selfie.

Trivia Answer: Selfie became word of the year in 2013! (Want to play trivia? subscribe to our newsletter!)

The focus groups were labelled as:

  • Attention seeking – taking and posting selfies to feel more popular.
  • Mood modification – has been described by Griffiths (2005) as an experience that makes someone feel better and is part of what defines addiction.  Selfie taking is another way in which people can enhance their mood, which reinforces selfie-taking behaviour.
  • Self-confidence – The taking selfies may increase the self-confidence of those who engage in this behavior.
  • Social competition – taking selfies to increase one’s social status, or posting selfies to get social media likes.
  • Subjective conformity – This refers to an individual’s tendency to copy what others do.  Social media platforms allow users to create different groups and feel a sense of belongingness to a particular group.
  • Environmental enhancement – This is the taking of selfies to create memories or trophies of oneself (e.g. at a concert or after running a marathon).  Environmental enhancement also means that people are able to express themselves more freely through the taking of selfies.

In the study, 223 people said they take 1 – 4 selfies a day, and, 141 took 5 – 8 a day. That’s a lot if you ask us, but then again, we have never counted our selfies per day …

From one of the studies, they then categorized the groups as following:

  • Borderline – taking a selfie up to three times per day, but not posting this on social media.
  • Acute – taking a selfie at least three times per day and posting each of these on social media.
  • Chronic – possessing the urge to take selfies all day and posting these on social media at least six times in a day.

The results? Chronic had a higher school for attention seeking, social competition and environmental enhancement. Borderline (taking selfies but not necessarily posting them) had higher scores for self-confidence and mood modification. Meaning these people would post selfies only when they were trying to put themselves in a better mood.

Shocking, right? But also v true from what we see today!

The acute group (three selfies per day and posting on social media) subjective conformity was main motivator.

And there you have it – we all take photos for different reasons, because we are all different.