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Through social network sites such as Facebook, people gain information about acquaintances that they would not gain from everyday life. This information typically highlights the most positive aspects of people’s personalities and lives. The goal of this investigation was to determine whether looking at another user’s Facebook profile influences perceptions of that individual’s socially desirable characteristics (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness). One group of participants viewed an acquaintance’s Facebook profile before providing evaluations, and the other evaluated the person without viewing Facebook. Results revealed that participants who viewed another person’s Facebook profile evaluated that person more favorably than those who completed a control task (Study 1) or wrote about the person from memory (Study 2). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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Basic and Applied Social Psychology
ISSN: 0197-3533 (Print) 1532-4834 (Online) Journal homepage:
Perceptions of Perfection: The Influence of Social
Media on Interpersonal Evaluations
Erin A. Vogel & Jason P. Rose
To cite this article: Erin A. Vogel & Jason P. Rose (2017): Perceptions of Perfection: The Influence
of Social Media on Interpersonal Evaluations, Basic and Applied Social Psychology
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Perceptions of Perfection: The Influence of Social Media on
Interpersonal Evaluations
Erin A. Vogela and Jason P. Roseb
aUniversity of California, San Francisco; bUniversity of Toledo
Through social network sites such as Facebook, people gain information about acquaintances that
they would not gain from everyday life. This information typically highlights the most positive
aspects of people’s personalities and lives. The goal of this investigation was to determine whether
looking at another user’s Facebook profile influences perceptions of that individual’s socially
desirable characteristics (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness). One group of participants viewed an
acquaintance’s Facebook profile before providing evaluations, and the other evaluated the person
without viewing Facebook. Results revealed that participants who viewed another person’s
Facebook profile evaluated that person more favorably than those who completed a control task
(Study 1) or wrote about the person from memory (Study 2). Theoretical and practical implications
are discussed.
Social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook have
revolutionized the way people present themselves and
interact with others (Weisbuch, Ivcevic, & Ambady,
2009). Through large, diffuse networks composed mostly
of acquaintances rather than close friends, SNS users
have a large audience for their carefully constructed
personal identities (Ivcevic & Ambady, 2012; Zhao,
Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008) and social lives (Manago,
Taylor, & Greenfield, 2012). Because SNSs are so custo-
mizable and interactive, users are exposed to a variety
of rich information about distant others’ lifestyles and
personalities that they may not otherwise get through
face-to-face interaction (Steijn & Schouten, 2013). It
stands to reason that this detailed, positively biased social
information may influence how SNS users perceive
distant others in their social networks. However, surpris-
ingly little research has been conducted in which percep-
tions of acquaintances made after viewing social media
profiles are compared to perceptions retained without
this SNS information. The current research attempts to
fill this gap in the literature by examining the impact of
social media (particularly Facebook) on participants’
perceptions of real-life acquaintances.
Self-presentation on social network sites
SNSs offer unique opportunities for users to selectively
present the most positive aspects of their lifestyles and
personalities using photos, self-descriptions, and public
conversations (Weisbuch et al., 2009), which other users
notice and consider when viewing their profiles and
evaluating them (Vogel & Rose, 2017). Moreover, users
are consciously aware of these opportunities (Manago,
Graham, Greenfield, & Salimkhan, 2008), report taking
advantage of them (Zhao et al., 2008), and understand that
other users also present themselves positively, perhaps
unrealistically so (DeAndrea & Walther, 2011; Drouin,
Miller, Wehle, & Hernandez, 2016; Manago et al., 2008).
Although a wealth of prior research has found that view-
ing others’ SNS profiles produces negative self-evaluations
(e.g., Haferkamp & Kramer, 2011; Krasnova, Wenninger,
Widjaja, & Buxmann, 2013; Tandoc, Ferrucci, & Duffy,
2015; Vogel, Rose, Roberts, & Eckles, 2014), to our
knowledge no studies have directly demonstrated that
perceptions of others’ value-laden traits (e.g., popularity,
success, attractiveness) are impacted by social media
exposure. Although people who use Facebook likely
hope that others will view them positively based on their
online personas, whether their attempts at positive self-
presentation are successful is not clear.
Perceptions of acquaintances on social
network sites
Understanding the role of SNSs in shaping participants’
perceptions of acquaintances is important for several
none defined
CONTACT Erin A. Vogel Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, Box 0984, 401 Parnassus Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94143.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
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reasons. First, research has shown that close others are
generally viewed very positively (Taylor & Koivumaki,
1976), whereas impressions of acquaintances are more
varied. Because distant relationships do not involve a
great deal of meaningful interaction, SNSs likely
account for a large portion of the social information a
user receives about an acquaintance and likely have a
pronounced impact on perceptions of that acquaint-
ance. Second, the average SNS user reports logging in
multiple times a day (Pempek, Yermolayeva, & Calvert,
2009), and most users’ SNS networks consist primarily
of acquaintances (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007;
Manago et al., 2012). Many users have hundreds of
social contacts on SNSs, only some of whom are close
others. Therefore, views of acquaintances would be
expected to account for a large portion of an effect of
social media on person perception. Thus far, research
on social media and person perception has mostly
focused on impressions of strangers, rather than
acquaintances (e.g., Back et al., 2010; Buffardi &
Campbell, 2008; Creed & Funder, 1998; Funder &
Sneed, 1993; Tskhay & Rule, 2014; Vazire, Naumann,
Rentfrow, & Gosling, 2008; Weidman & Levinson,
2015; Weisbuch et al., 2009). Because preexisting
acquaintances are evaluated differently than strangers
(Leising, Gallrein, & Dufner, 2014), and because social
networks primarily consist of preexisting acquaintances,
it is important to assess the impact of social media on
such perceptions. Moreover, most prior research has
examined personality characteristics (e.g., extraversion,
conscientiousness) as opposed to subjective, value-laden
characteristics (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness), which
may be critical for self-presentation. The current
research aims to address these gaps in the literature.
Current research
Social media offers a host of information that people
would not otherwise receive about their distant acquain-
tances (Steijn & Schouten, 2013). This information,
which tends to be positively biased (e.g., Qiu, Lin,
Leung, & Tov, 2012), is likely to influence social media
users’ perceptions of their acquaintances. The aim of the
present study is to examine differences in participants’
perceptions of acquaintances after viewing these
acquaintances’ social media profiles versus simply
thinking about them. Because people do not interact
with their acquaintances very frequently or meaning-
fully, these control conditions likely simulate real-world
evaluations. If people tend to selectively present their
most positive characteristics and life events on social
media (see Vogel & Rose, 2016, for a review), it stands
to reason that acquaintances would be seen as
having more desirable characteristics when judged after
viewing Facebook. In two studies, we sought to
determine whether Facebook users would evaluate
their acquaintances differently on socially desirable
characteristics if they first viewed their acquaintances’
Facebook profiles. Facebook users often present them-
selves positively using photos, status updates about their
accomplishments, and public conversations with others
(Ivcevic & Ambady, 2012; Manago et al., 2012; Zhao
et al., 2008), which are likely to make them appear more
attractive, successful, intelligent, likeable, and popular.
Because of this positive self-presentation bias on
Facebook, we hypothesized that participants who
viewed their acquaintances’ profiles would have more
positive evaluations of those targets than those who
evaluated their acquaintances without using Facebook.
Study 1
Participants and design
Participants were 121 undergraduates (89 female) from
a large Midwestern university in the United States who
participated in exchange for course credit. The median
age was 19 (M ¼19.02, SD ¼2.27). The racial makeup
of the sample was 76.9% White, 14% Black, 2.5% Asian,
1.7% Pacific Islander, 2.5% mixed race, and 2.5%
unknown race(s). Given the logistics of the procedure
(described next), each session of participants was ran-
domly assigned to the Facebook condition or control
Procedure and measures
Participants came to the lab in groups of one to four to
take part in a larger study regarding social comparison
on social media. As just noted, all participants in a given
session were assigned to the same condition so that the
experimenter could give identical verbal instructions
throughout the study. Upon arrival, participants were
seated at individual computers. They were told that
the study concerned their personality characteristics
and those of the people in their social networks. First,
all participants completed a cognitive task as part of a
larger study.
Next, participants in the Facebook con-
dition were instructed to select five evaluation targets
whose profiles they would like to view. They viewed
each target’s Facebook profile for 1 min each, spending
a total of 5 min browsing Facebook. After viewing
the profiles, they were instructed to log out of their
Facebook accounts before completing the dependent
measures. Participants in the control condition also
wrote down the names of five targets. However, instead
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of viewing Facebook, they spent 5 min doing a filler task
on the Internet that involved tracing routes on a map.
After 5 min, they were instructed to close the Internet
browser. All participants then completed the same
dependent measures. Participants rated each target’s
attractiveness, intelligence, likability, popularity, and
success on 5-point Likert-type scales from 1 (below
average) to 5 (above average), yielding 25 trait ratings
(five for each target). Ratings were collapsed across
traits and targets for analysis purposes (M ¼3.74,
SD ¼.48; α ¼.87).
Results and discussion
As expected, participants in the Facebook condition, who
viewed targets’ profiles before evaluating them, evaluated
these targets more favorably (M ¼3.84, SD ¼.41) than
participants in the control condition, who evaluated tar-
gets without viewing their profiles (M ¼3.63, SD ¼.53).
Descriptive statistics are presented in Table 1 and plotted
in Figure 1. Specifically, on average, participants who
viewed Facebook profiles evaluated the targets .44 stan-
dard deviation units more positively than those who
did not (d ¼.44). Furthermore, 65.23% of participants
in this sample who viewed Facebook profiles evaluated
targets more positively than the average participant
who did not view Facebook (descriptive U
In the general population (assuming evaluation scores
are normally distributed), 67% of those who viewed
Facebook would evaluate targets more positively than
the average person who did not view Facebook (Cohen’s
¼67%; Valentine, Aloe, & Lau, 2015). This pattern of
results was consistent across both male and female
participants based on the very small effect size for the
participant Gender Experimental Condition interac-
tion (partial η
¼.007). Overall, the results corroborate
previous findings of a self-presentation bias on Facebook
such that users present the most positive aspects of their
personalities and lives (e.g., Chou & Edge, 2012; Manago
et al., 2008; Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012; Qiu et al., 2012;
Zhao et al., 2008). Furthermore, our results provide the
first direct, experimental evidence that positive self-
presentation on Facebook affects how observers perceive
their acquaintances compared to non-Facebook
Study 2
Although the results supported our hypothesis, Study 1
had several limitations. First, there were potentially
Table 1. Descriptive statistics from Study 1.
Overall data
Sample size 121 64 57
Range of evaluations 1.80–5.00 3.00–5.00 1.80–4.76
M of evaluations 3.74 3.84 3.63
Mdn of evaluations 3.76 3.88 3.68
SD of evaluations .48 .41 .53
Coefficient of variation .13 .11 .15
Note. Participants rated five friends’ attractiveness, intelligence, likability,
popularity, and success on a Likert-type scale from 1 (below average) to
5 (above aver age). Evaluation scores reflect participants’ average rating,
collapsing across traits and friends.
Figure 1. Boxplot display of mean evaluations of targets’ traits in Study 1, organized by experimental condition.
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important differences between conditions in the
amount of information participants used about the
targets and the depth at which they processed the infor-
mation before making judgments. For example, parti-
cipants in the Facebook condition were given time to
view targets’ profiles before making their evaluations,
whereas participants in the control condition were not
actively thinking about the targets until they began their
evaluations. Therefore, we cannot rule out the expla-
nation that these differences, rather than differences
related to the nature of SNS content itself, account for
the results. In Study 2, we addressed this limitation by
redesigning the control condition such that participants
wrote about the target person before completing
Second, participants in Study 1 were instructed to
choose any five targets to evaluate. The only restriction
was that the targets must have Facebook profiles.
Because social networks primarily consist of acquain-
tances rather than close friends, we presumed that
participants would primarily choose acquaintances to
evaluate. However, some participants chose close
friends or family members to evaluate. This is poten-
tially problematic for two reasons. First, these
evaluation targets are less likely to be representative of
SNS use, given that much of SNS use consists of brows-
ing acquaintances’ profiles (Pempek et al., 2009). When
asked to choose someone to evaluate, participants likely
chose the first individuals who came to mind, rather
than those who would be representative of their
SNS use. Second, the extant literature indicates that
Facebook users are most affected by others’ self-
presentation when they do not know their Facebook
friends in real life (Chou & Edge, 2012). This finding
suggests that impressions of acquaintances may be more
malleable than impressions of close others after using
Facebook. Indeed, research on self-disclosure has found
that individuals’ social media activity more strongly
affects their relationships with acquaintances than with
close others (Steijn & Schouten, 2013). Therefore, in
Study 2, we specifically instructed participants to select
an acquaintance using the following instructions:
“Think of a friend who you know fairly well but would
not consider a close friend or best friend.” Important to
note, close others are generally evaluated much more
positively than acquaintances or even oneself (Taylor
& Koivumaki, 1976). Although we would not expect
acquaintances to be viewed more positively than close
friends, the results of Study 1 suggest that they would
be evaluated more positively by participants who viewed
their Facebook profiles than those who did not. More-
over, because of the possible effects of relationship
closeness on evaluations, we also included two
additional sets of measures to ensure that participants
across conditions chose friends who were similar
on relationship dimensions (e.g., closeness, relationship
Participants and design
Participants were 104 undergraduates (81 female) from
the same university as Study 1 who participated in
exchange for course credit. Three participants were
excluded from analyses for not following instructions,
and two were removed due to experimenter error, yield-
ing a final sample of 99 participants (78 female). The
median age was 19 (M ¼19.32, SD ¼2.53). The racial
makeup of the sample was 59.6% White, 22.2% Black,
7% Asian, 10.1% mixed race, and 1% unknown race(s);
1% declined to respond. As in Study 1, each session
of participants was randomly assigned to either the
Facebook condition or the control condition.
Procedure and measures
Participants came to the lab for a study purportedly
concerning the relationship between their personality
characteristics and those of the people in their social
networks. All participants were asked to think of a per-
son they knew fairly well but would not consider a close
friend or a best friend.
Participants in the Facebook
condition viewed the target person’s profile for 3 min
and were instructed to pay attention to information
such as the target’s appearance, interests, and typical
Facebook posts. To closely simulate the information
that people might typically receive on Facebook,
participants in the control condition completed a brief
questionnaire about the target that included infor-
mation about the target’s appearance, interests, and
typical conversation topics (see the appendix). Finally,
all participants completed the following measures using
MediaLab software (Jarvis, 2008).
Evaluations of target’s characteristics. As in Study 1,
participants answered five questions to evaluate the
target’s attractiveness (1 ¼very unattractive, 5 ¼very
attractive), intelligence (1 ¼not at all intelligent,
5 ¼very intelligent), likability (1 ¼not at all likeable,
5 ¼very likeable), popularity (1 ¼very unpopular, 5 ¼
very popular), and success (1 ¼very unsuccessful,
5 ¼very successful) on 1-to-5 Likert-type scales.
were combined for analysis purposes (M ¼3.82,
SD ¼.58; α ¼.65).
Evaluations of relationship with target. Participants
also answered eight questions about the person’s
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positive qualities and their intentions to spend time
with the person. Sample items include “How good of
a friend is this person?” (1 ¼not a good friend at all,
5 ¼very good friend), “How fun is this person to be
around?” (1 ¼not fun at all, 5 ¼very fun), How close
do you feel to this person?” (1 ¼very distant, 5 ¼very
close), and “Do you plan to invite this person to spend
time with you soon?” (1 ¼definitely will not,
5 ¼definitely will). Items were combined for analysis
purposes (M ¼3.79, SD ¼.74; α ¼.90).
McGill friendship questionnaire–respondent’s affection.
To assess participants’ feelings about their relationship
with the person, they completed the 16-item McGill
Friendship Questionnaire–Respondent’s Affection
(Mendelson & Aboud, 1999) using a 1-to-5 Likert-type
scale. Sample items include “I am satisfied with my
friendship with [friend’s name],” “I think my friendship
with [friend’s name] is strong,” and “I hope [friend’s
name] and I will stay friends” (1 ¼strongly disagree,
5 ¼strongly agree; M ¼3.72, SD ¼.67; α ¼.96). See
Table 2 for correlations between measures.
Results and discussion
Relationship evaluations
First, we examined potential differences between the
Facebook and control conditions on attitudes toward
the relationship and intentions to spend time with the
target person. Participants in the Facebook condition
(M ¼3.86, SD ¼.72) and participants in the control
condition (M ¼3.73, SD ¼.76) had similar attitudes
and intentions (d ¼.18). Similarly, scores on the McGill
Friendship Questionnaire were similar between the
Facebook condition (M ¼3.77, SD ¼.65) and the
control condition (M ¼3.68, SD ¼.69; d ¼.13). This
result suggests that target selection cannot account for
the differences across conditions.
Friend evaluations
Replicating the results of Study 1, participants in
the Facebook condition rated targets more favorably
(M ¼3.93, SD ¼.56) than did participants in the
control condition (M ¼3.72, SD ¼. 59). Descriptive
statistics are presented in Table 3 and plotted in
Figure 2. Similar to Study 1, participants who viewed
a target’s Facebook profile in this study evaluated the
target .37 standard deviation units more positively on
average than those who did not view Facebook
(d ¼.37). In addition, 70.83% of participants who viewed
a friend’s Facebook profile evaluated their friend more
positively than the average control participant (descrip-
tive U
¼70.83, Cohen’s U
¼64.43). Again, a small
effect size for the Participant Gender Experimental
Condition interaction suggests that male and female part-
icipants’ evaluations did not substantially differ based on
experimental condition (partial η
for interaction ¼.001),
and 90% of participants reported choosing an evaluation
target of the same gender as themselves. Taken together,
these results provide further support for the hypothesis
that viewing an acquaintance’s Facebook profile leads
to more positive evaluations of the acquaintance.
General discussion
The purpose of this investigation was to examine the
influence of Facebook on the evaluation of acquain-
tances’ socially desirable traits. In two studies, parti-
cipants were randomly assigned to either view their
acquaintances’ Facebook profiles or complete a control
task and then to evaluate their acquaintances’ value-
laden characteristics (e.g., attractiveness, intelligence).
Results showed that participants evaluated these indivi-
duals more favorably if they first viewed the targets’
Facebook profiles (vs. simply thinking or writing about
the targets), with comparable medium effect sizes across
the two studies.
To our knowledge, these studies are the first to offer
experimental evidence that positive self-presentation
bias on Facebook affects views of acquaintances when
compared to non-Facebook control conditions. Much
of the social media literature employs a cross-sectional
approach using mediation analysis, which does not
necessarily yield accurate causal inferences (Grice,
Cohn, Ramsey, & Chaney, 2015; Kline, 2015; Tate,
2015; Thoemmes, 2015; Trafimow, 2015). Manipulating
participants’ Facebook activity allowed us to infer caus-
ality. Moreover, these results fit well into the context of
prior research showing that people experience envy
while using Facebook (e.g., Krasnova et al., 2013;
Tandoc et al., 2015) because their acquaintances’ pro-
files lead to them to view their acquaintances more posi-
tively than they would offline (e.g., Chou & Edge, 2012;
Manago et al., 2008; Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012; Qiu
et al., 2012; Zhao et al., 2008). Because the majority of
online social networks are composed of acquaintances
rather than close friends (Manago et al., 2012),
Facebook users’ opinions of many of their daily contacts
may be largely shaped by the impressions they make
on Facebook. Although first impressions made on
Table 2. Correlations between variables in Study 2.
Variable 1 2 3
1. Friend characteristics .53 .44
2. Relationship with friend .84
3. Friendship questionnaire
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Facebook have been found to be similar to those made
offline (Back et al., 2010; Weisbuch et al., 2009), our stu-
dies suggest that impressions of existing acquaintances
are, in fact, influenced by self-presentation on Facebook.
Through exposure to others’ personal “highlight reels”
(e.g., flawless photos, posts about positive accomplish-
ments and experiences), people tend to judge others’
socially desirable characteristics (e.g., successfulness,
popularity, attractiveness, intelligence) quite positively.
Therefore, Facebook users base their judgments on
accurate but incomplete snapshots of other users’ lives.
Although a user may be aware of such incompleteness
(DeAndrea & Walther, 2011; Manago et al., 2008), these
results suggest that it still influences person perception.
Limitations and future directions
These studies have a few notable limitations. First,
Facebook use in the lab is not identical to participants’
typical Facebook use. Although passive browsing of
others’ posts is one of the major activities of Facebook
(Pempek et al., 2009), participants may view others’ pro-
files for longer periods, or view posts on their newsfeed
rather than individuals’ profiles. We used a lab-based,
experimental approach in order to establish causality;
however, a replication based on participants’ natural
Facebook use would be informative.
Second, participants in the control condition gener-
ated their own description of the target person, whereas
those in the Facebook condition viewed preexisting
information (i.e., the target person’s profile). We chose
this procedure because it accurately reflects much of
what happens in daily life, especially when evaluating
acquaintances rather than close friends. To evaluate a
person who is not present, the perceiver relies on his
or her memory of the person’s behavior and character-
istics to form an impression. However, we cannot rule
out that answering questions about a target person
influenced perceptions of the target in unintended ways.
Relatedly, it is possible that participants may have
evaluated their social contacts positively partly because
they were exposed to information about those contacts
immediately before the evaluation (i.e., recency effects;
see related ideas in de Bruin, 2005). However, because
participants in the control condition of Study 2 also
had information (albeit self-generated) about their
social contacts, this is unlikely to account for the
entirety of the effect. Furthermore, recency effects have
been found to be small and sometimes nonsignificant
(Anderson & Barrios, 1961; Asch, 1946). Nonetheless,
Table 3. Descriptive statistics from Study 2.
Sample size 99 48 51
Range of evaluations 2.20–5.00 2.40–5.00 2.20–5.00
M of evaluations 3.82 3.93 3.72
Mdn of evaluations 4.00 4.00 3.80
SD of evaluations .58 .56 .59
Coefficient of
.15 .14 .16
Note. Participants rated their friend’s attractiveness, intelligence, likability,
popularity, and success on 1-to-5 Likert-type scales (e.g., 1 ¼very
unattractive, 5 ¼very attractive). Evaluation scores reflect participants’
average rating, collapsing across traits.
Figure 2. Boxplot display of mean evaluations of targets’ traits in Study 2, organized by experimental condition.
Downloaded by [UCSF Library] at 09:11 11 August 2017
participants may have paid particular attention to the
positive information contained in the profiles because
they viewed it immediately before evaluating their
Third, although theory and the empirical literature
suggest that a positive self-presentation bias likely
accounts for the differences between conditions, we
did not confirm this by evaluating the actual content
of the profiles. Although we suggest that participants’
responses themselves support this notion, future
research could seek to measure the positivity of the
actual profile content.
Theoretical and practical implications
These results have important theoretical and practical
implications for person perception on SNSs. First, from
a theoretical standpoint, these results suggest that per-
ceptions of acquaintances’ subjective, value-laden traits
may be influenced by self-presentation biases. Because
subjective, value-laden traits are socially desirable and
highly amenable to social comparison, perception of
such traits is likely driving the effects observed in the
literature involving social comparison and social media
(e.g., Haferkamp & Kramer, 2011; Steers, Wickham, &
Acitelli, 2014; Vogel et al., 2014). Although previous
research has examined the effects of viewing acquain-
tances’ SNS profiles on self-views (Chou & Edge,
2012) and relationship development (Steijn & Schouten,
2013), the present research is the first to directly
compare perceptions of acquaintances’ value-laden
traits with and without exposure to SNSs. Second, this
research supports the notion that viewing acquain-
tances’ profiles is particularly impactful (e.g., Chou &
Edge, 2012; Steijn & Schouten, 2013). Although the
present research did not directly compare perceptions
of acquaintances with perceptions of friends, data from
our lab tentatively suggest that perceptions of close
friends are less strongly influenced by SNS exposure
(Vogel & Rose, 2017). This is likely due both to a gen-
eral tendency to evaluate close others very positively
(Taylor & Koivumaki, 1976) and to knowledge of close
friends’ flaws and difficulties that may not be apparent
on SNSs (Chou & Edge, 2012). Regardless, it is impor-
tant to note that perceptions of acquaintances are more
likely to be impacted by SNS exposure than perceptions
of close friends or family members.
From an applied perspective, these two studies sug-
gest that the ubiquity of Facebook may lead to a strong
overall effect on how people perceive others. Although
the effect sizes observed in this study were only in the
medium range (passing the benchmark for educational
significance, but not clinical significance; Wolf, 1986),
they may be cumulative over time. Indeed, Facebook
offers the opportunity to gain detailed information
about hundreds of acquaintances. Users who do not
know their Facebook friends well in real life rely on
information gleaned from Facebook to form impres-
sions of those acquaintances (Chou & Edge, 2012).
Viewing overly positive depictions of hundreds of
acquaintances may alter people’s perceptions of where
they stand in relation to others. Important to note,
participants in these studies had very brief exposure to
only one to five acquaintances’ profiles before evaluat-
ing those acquaintances, and differences between the
Facebook and control conditions were still notable.
These short-term effects would likely pale in compari-
son to the potential cumulative effects that would
happen over time. Furthermore, self-presentation bias
can affect Facebook users positively when they use it
to their advantage. Positive self-presentation is one of
the major goals of Facebook use (Nadkarni & Hofmann,
2012), and our results suggest that users typically
accomplish this goal. Facebook can be an excellent
platform for projecting a positive image of oneself to a
large number of friends and acquaintances.
In sum, the results of these two studies demonstrate
an effect of Facebook use on the perception of
acquaintances’ highly desirable traits. Because social
media use is ubiquitous in daily life, impressions made
on SNSs may strongly influence ongoing perceptions
of acquaintances. Viewing others’ profiles may be
beneficial for impression management and relationship
1. Participants in both conditions completed the Remote
Associates Test before choosing friends to evaluate as part
of a larger study on social comparison and social media.
All participants were told that the test was a predictor of
future success. They also evaluated themselves on the same
characteristics (attractiveness, intelligence, likability, popu-
larity, and success) as their friends. These manipulations
and measures are not central to the core components of
the present article and are not discussed further.
2. One evaluation score (1.80) was more than 3 standard
deviations below the mean. When the outlier was excluded
from analyses, the pattern of results remained consistent,
with a slightly reduced effect size (d ¼.39). Because
the outlier is a realistic and meaningful data point, it was
retained in the final analysis.
3. It is possible that some participants evaluated targets
whom they met on social media and have never met in real
life. In Study 1, participants were asked, “When was the
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last time you saw this person?” Of the 605 targets that
participants evaluated in this study, only three were people
they had not met in person (0.05%). In Study 2,
participants were asked, “How did you meet this person?”
Only two participants indicated that they met the person
online (1%). Because the vast majority of evaluation targets
were individuals whom participants knew offline, this issue
most likely did not influence the observed pattern of
results. Analyses were conducted excluding online-only
targets for both studies, and the pattern and strength of
the results did not change.
4. It is important to note that the anchors of the measure-
ment scales differed across Studies 1 and 2. Specifically,
Study 1 used comparative judgments (below average to
above average), and Study 2 used absolute judgments
(not at all to very). Although using consistent anchors
would have been ideal, there is a large literature showing
that absolute and comparative judgments are highly
conflated (see Chambers & Windschitl, 2004, for a review).
The extant literature and the consistent effect sizes
across the two studies suggest that the change in scale
anchors and judgment types did not have an impact on
5. Although Studies 1 and 2 assessed the same five traits,
Cronbach’s alpha was notably lower in Study 2. This
may have been caused by the relatively small number
of items (five) included in Study 2 (Peterson, 1994).
A 2 (experimental condition) 5 (trait) mixed-model
analysis of variance showed a very small Condition Trait
interaction (partial η
¼.008), indicating that the influence
of trait type did not substantially differ based on experi-
mental condition. Furthermore, a principal components
analysis did not support extraction of multiple factors.
Therefore, we opted to combine the traits into one evalu-
ation score.
Erin A. Vogel
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Friend questionnaire for control condition participants
(Study 2)
1. What is this friend’s first name?
2. How did you meet this friend?
3. Friend’s gender: _____________
4. Friend’s age: _____________
5. Friend’s appearance (such as hair style, body type,
clothing choices, etc.):
6. What are this friend’s interests (hobbies, sports and
other activities, favorite TV shows, etc.)?
7. Where does this friend work and/or go to school?
8. What kinds of things does this friend usually talk
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... Second, given the role of academic staff webpage profiles in the 'search and reach out' process, we consider them as critical objects for supervisor first impressions. The importance of their role is supported by research on the impact of CVs, personal websites, and social media pages on determining success of job applicants (Acquisti & Fong, 2020;Sameen & Cornelius, 2015;Vogel & Rose, 2017). ...
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Social media abound with successful portrayals in nearly every life domain (e.g. appearance, social life). Many researchers have expressed concerns about such portrayals, claiming that they might be detrimental to adolescents’ self-development. More specifically, continuous exposure to successful portrayals on social media may encourage adolescents to perceive these portrayals as standards to meet, which might evoke feelings of discrepancy (i.e. the feeling of falling short of important standards). The results of a three-wave longitudinal study ( N = 1032, M age = 14.55, SD = 1.65) revealed that exposure to different types of successful portrayals on social media (i.e. attractive appearance and a perfect life) does not relate to feelings of discrepancy over time, and vice versa at a within-person level. Yet, between-person associations were present for both types of successful portrayals with feelings of discrepancy. Hence, our findings stress the importance of taking into account both between- and within-person relations when examining social media effects.
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En los últimos años, diversos estudios han comprobado que los medios sociales pueden motivar a los ciudadanos a participar en la vida pública. En el caso de México, la consolidación de este proceso pudo observarse en las elecciones presidenciales del 2018. Mientras que es claro que los medios digitales han tenido un efecto en la vida política mexicana, su aportación real en el fortalecimiento de la democracia resulta un tema polémico. Un año después del histórico proceso electoral, se realizó un estudio cualitativo en el que se entrevistó a 35 especialistas de las ciencias sociales de universidades públicas y privadas en seis estados del país. La investigación demuestra que los académicos consideran que existen tanto avances, como riesgos, en un proceso de cambio que continúa durante el presente.
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Los medios se han vuelto la extensión de nuestra piel: tienen profundidad, densidad y un comportamiento que asemeja a un ser vivo. Son membranas traslúcidas y mutables incrustadas en redes mecánicas y digitales que unen el mundo orgánico con el electrónico. Son interfaces con base humana que convierten a nuestro cuerpo en un dispositivo de entrada para los medios de comunicación. Con esto, medios y vida se integran para tratar de dar mayor dinamismo, envoltura y profundidad a nuestras experiencias. Los medios son interlocutores invisibles mientras reciben, registran, memorizan y reescriben nuestras acciones. Los medios nos hicieron visibles, nos dotaron de una piel en la que podemos tatuar todos los momentos de la vida. Dotaron de un extraño volumen nuestros anhelos, materializaron nuestros recuerdos. Sacaron nuestra vida de su hábitat tradicional. Nos pusieron en un terreno común, el de la mediación existencial; en esa paradójica condición en que todo en nuestra vida puede ser documentado, grabado, almacenado, curado, accesado, controlado, coleccionado, borrado, publicado, mostrado, transmitido, compartido, publicitado. En este texto el lector reflexionará sobre el grado de interacción entre los medios y los usuarios, comprenderá los factores que intervinieron para hacer del consumo un territorio de búsqueda y legitimación hipermedial.
Social media platforms and social networking sites are heavily focused on self-presentation and impression management. The present study aimed to identify salient social media behaviors and psychosocial factors most associated with high levels of upward online social comparisons. An online survey was administered through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to assess demographics, psychosocial factors, and social media behaviors, including tendencies to make upward social comparisons online. Results revealed key factors related to high upward social comparisons: those with low quality of life, low perceived social support, high in fear of missing out, high levels of social media addiction, frequent censorship to avoid judgment, and feelings of safety while using social media. The overall findings of this study suggest an association between negative well-being and making online upward social comparisons.
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Research on the psychological consequences of social network site (SNS) use has produced mixed results. Some studies suggest that SNS (particularly Facebook) use is beneficial, whereas others suggest that it is harmful. What can account for these mixed results? This article reviews the literature on this topic and offers self-presentation as a framework for understanding the differential effects of SNS use on psychological well-being. There are 2 key points from our perspective. First, Facebook users tend to present themselves positively on SNSs. Second, the psychological impact of SNS use will depend upon whether a user’s activities are self-focused or other-focused. Focusing on one’s own positively presented self-image generally leads to beneficial outcomes, whereas focusing on others’ idealized images typically leads to harmful outcomes. Practical recommendations for SNS use are offered.
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Mediation analyses have become extremely popular in the social sciences generally, and in social psychology specifically, because they seem to grant the researcher the ability to draw causal conclusions from correlational data. But this is illusory. Correlation provides poor quality evidence of causation not only in the case of zero-order correlations but also in the case of more complex mediation analyses. The articles in this special issue provide compelling arguments as to why mediation analyses make a weak case for actual mediation. My goal is to cognitively prime the reader for these articles by presenting analyses pertaining to the mean orbital momentum, kinetic energy, and conversion energy of the eight planets of our solar system. Our solar system provides a dramatic case in point where mediation analyses provide blatantly wrong conclusions.
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Kenny (2008) credited Hyman (19559. Hyman, H. (1955). Survey design and analysis: Principles, cases and procedures. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.View all references) with originally discussing mediation analysis under the name elaboration. Of importance, Hyman's elaboration required a time-ordered relationship among variables, such that the mediator must always intervene in time between the predictor and outcome. However, in the modern discussions of mediation (e.g., Baron & Kenny, 19861. Baron, R., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1173View all references; Preacher & Hayes, 200422. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 717–731. doi:10.3758/bf03206553View all references), this crucial point about time-ordered relationships appears to be underemphasized. This article shows that by employing a conceptual timing criterion for all mediation analyses, the overuse of this technique can be curbed, and, simultaneously, researchers will understand when mediation analyses are appropriate across the behavioral and medical science literatures.
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The hope of mediation modeling is that psychologists can go beyond tests of association to truly uncover mechanisms of change. We argue this hope can be realized only if psychologists make important distinctions regarding causality and inference. From the perspective of Aristotelian philosophy, mediation models are sequences of efficient causes, and psychologists should therefore seek to identify those persons who can be traced through the entire sequence successfully. By reanalyzing data from two mediation studies we demonstrate that contemporary, aggregate methods of analysis are not suitable for this task because they are instead focused on making inferences about population parameters. In both studies alternative, person-centered methods revealed that majorities of participants were not traceable through the statistically significant mediation models.
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Social networking sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, provide abundant social comparison opportunities. Given the widespread use of SNSs, the purpose of the present set of studies was to examine the impact of chronic and temporary exposure to social media-based social comparison information on self-esteem. Using a correlational approach, Study 1 examined whether frequent Facebook use is associated with lower trait self-esteem. Indeed, the results showed that participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media. Using an experimental approach, Study 2 examined the impact of temporary exposure to social media profiles on state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations. The results revealed that participants’ state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations were lower when the target person’s profile contained upward comparison information (e.g., a high activity social network, healthy habits) than when the target person’s profile contained downward comparison information (e.g., a low activity social network, unhealthy habits). Results are discussed in terms of extant research and their implications for the role of social media in well-being.
In this study, we examined online deception across four different online venues (i.e., social media, online dating, anonymous chat rooms, and sexual websites) in a sample of 272 U.S. adults (average age = 32.22 years) recruited through Amazon’s MTurk. Few of the participants (16%–32%) reported that they were or would be always honest across these sites, and even fewer (0–2%) suspected that others were always honest in these different online venues. In terms of types of lie, most (55–90%) believed that others were at least sometimes lying about their age, gender, activities, interests, and appearance across the four online venues. Ninety percent expected others to lie at least sometimes about their appearance (most expected lie type) and 55% expected others to lie at least sometimes about their gender (least expected lie type). However, although they expected people to lie more about their gender on sites with more anonymity and invisibility (like anonymous chat rooms and sexual websites), they expected equal rates of lies about appearance across all four websites, even on sites where users provide pictures and have shared acquaintances. Moreover, perceptions of others’ lying behavior on the venue were more significant predictors of own lying behavior than any of the personal characteristics we measured (i.e., Machiavellianism, psychopathy, extraversion, or internet addiction). The importance of mutuality was further reinforced by qualitative comments that showed that, in addition to lying to look more attractive or for privacy or protection concerns, some people lie “because everyone lies on the internet.”
Reversing arrows in the classic tri-variate X-M-Y mediation models as a test to check whether one mediation model is superior to another is inadmissible. Presenting evidence that one tri-variate mediation model yields a significant indirect effect, whereas one with some reversed arrows does not, is not proof or even evidence that one model should be preferred. In fact, the significance of the indirect or any other effect can never be used to infer whether one model should be preferred over another, if the models are in the same so-called equivalence class. The practice of running several mediation models with reversed arrows to decide which model to prefer should be abandoned. The only way to choose among equivalent models is through assumptions that are either fulfilled by design features or invoked based on theory. Similar arguments about reversing arrows in mediation models have been made before, but this current work is the first to derive this result analytically for the complete (Markovian) equivalence class of the tri-variate mediation model.
The mediation myth is the false belief that mediation is actually estimated in the typical mediation analysis. This myth is based on a trifecta of shortcomings: (1) the typical mediation study relies on an inadequate design; (2) the researcher uses a flawed analysis strategy; and (3) there is scant attention to assumptions that are required when estimating mediation. These problems stem from overgeneralizing the classical product method for estimating mediation and overreliance on statistical significance testing as a decision criterion in mediation analysis. The goals of this article are to (1) raise awareness of these difficulties among researchers and (2) provide a roadmap about design and analysis options for a more rigorous and scientifically valid approach to mediation analysis.
In this article we provide concrete guidance to researchers on ways that they can explore and communicate the results of their studies. Although we believe the methods we outline are important for any study, they are particularly useful for researchers who wish to avoid the null hypothesis significance testing paradigm. We articulate three basic principles of data presentation: (a) use graphic displays to facilitate understanding of descriptive statistics, (b) provide measures of variability with measures of central tendency for continuous outcomes, and (c) compute and thoughtfully interpret effect sizes and effect size translations. We then put these principles into action using data drawn from two real social psychological experiments and provide tools (including software code and a new effect size translation) that will help researchers to quickly and efficiently adopt the recommendations that they find sensible.
Prior research has identified the offline thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to impaired relationships for individuals high in social anxiety (HSA; e.g., fear of conversation; interpersonal aloofness). We tested whether social anxiety manifests through visible online signals of relationship impairment that mirror these known offline indicators, and whether observers use these signals when judging social anxiety online. Facebook profile owners (n = 77) reported social anxiety, their profiles were coded for objective features, and unacquainted observers (n = 6) rated profile owners’ social anxiety after viewing their profiles. HSA individuals’ Facebook profiles were shown to contain signs indicating relationship impairment across the domains of social inactivity (e.g., few friends and photographs), close relationship quality (e.g., relationship status of single), and self-disclosure (e.g., absence of status updates), and observers inferred high levels of social anxiety in individuals’ whose profiles showed these signs. These findings suggest that offline relationship impairment experienced by HSA individuals carries over into online contexts, and that online relationship impairment can be accurately perceived by unacquainted observers. Discussion considers whether integrating this knowledge into existing treatments – most notably online, self-guided protocols – could improve the identification and treatment of social anxiety.