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What Your Selfies Reveal About Your Psyche

What Your Selfies Reveal About Your Psyche

The duck face, ugly lip face and no makeup selfie have all been social media trends at one time or another. I am certain that I have participated in a few similar image sharing rituals myself. Dare I mention the time I took a drunk selfie and plastered it all over Facebook?

I am not so sure my family or colleagues were too happy about that either.

Selfies can reveal a great deal

“What selfies unmask about our real personality is shocking.” says Linda Roy, support worker on arousr.com who gets about a thousand selfies to review each and ever day. I thought I had seen just about everything, and then along comes another crazy trend to outdo the last one.

According to Williams and Marquez, co-authors of “The Lonely Selfie King: Selfies and the Conspicuous Presumption of Gender and Race,” a research paper from Texas A&M University, “It’s no secret that taking selfies has become part of the social media phenomenon.” Many psychologists believe that the photos an individual chooses to take can also reveal a great deal.

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  • Individuals such as celebrities who take them without makeup are likely to be confident in their looks.
  • People who take a huge amount of photos of themselves tend to be narcissistic.
  • People who shy away from the mere mention of a selfie may be harboring a deep sense of self-loathing.
  • “Dic Pics” are indicative of a person trying to ascertain power and dominance over the receiver. That explains a lot!

While these points may seem obvious, there just might be more to this selfie story than it meets the eye.

It’s only a selfie – the new ego

The social messages behind selfies are considered part of normal social behavior. However, it is a kind of blind acceptance based entirely on the large number of them. Really, we have no choice. Either we go along with the crowd or get lost in the shuffle. It isn’t who is producing them but rather who is reacting to them that actually determines trends.

When a person posts a selfie, they will be rewarded through likes, approvals and in some cases rejections. This may actually be the motivation for people who post more selfies than others. They are seeking approval or disapproval of projected cultural, gender, and sexual norms. What motivates the people to like or dislike them also plays a huge part in this fame game. Their motivations are purely narcissistic in nature. In some ways, it is a socially acceptable way of being judge, jury, and executioner.

This also explains why some people don’t like to post selfies. They fear rejection. Therefore, it can be assumed that confident people are the ones most likely posting selfies. I can hear the sounds of “Material Girl” playing in the background as I read these words.

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Establishing one’s own self-identity and social identity

These explanations go beyond sociopathic and narcissistic behaviors, though. There is another important reason as well. Social media is a forum for establishing one’s own self-identity and social identity.

Establishing who we are as individuals is based primarily on how people see us in the social media sphere.

For each individual, selfies convey a message about their racial identity, sexual orientation, masculinity or femininity, and the rituals they partake in.

In this context, it is seen as a form of performance art and self-expression. This has two outcomes.

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  1. The art reflects the norms of the culture in which the “performer” is embedded. By continually participating in this ritual, the performer becomes accepted into this culture.
  2. Contributing to this set of rules and norms means they are shifting the norms of gender, sex, and race and forcing others to blindly accept them.

How often a person produces selfies plays a role in determining whether someone is narcissistic or not. How do you put a number on it? How much is too much?  This has yet to be determined. But it is actually quite high. Some individuals post upwards of 20-30 selfies a day.  Yes, Virginia, this is a bit excessive!

In 2015, Guntuki, Qiu, Lin, and Jakhetiya (other researchers) viewed the posting of a selfie as a type of self-portrait. This self-portrait depicted the poster’s wishes of how they wanted to be perceived by the viewer. Whether that happens or not depends solely on the viewer. You cannot make someone think or feel how you want them too. Doing so is simply an egotist approach to art.

“I think it’s pretentious to create art just for the sake of stroking the artist’s ego” – Lou Reed

The people behind the camera

These researchers ran an experiment to see if a computer model could guess the personality of the poster based on visual cues in the photos. The experiment used several categories and indicators or physical markers to make their predictions. The study found significant correlations between various visual indicators and a number of personality traits.

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  • Photos that showed emotional positivity predicted the agreeableness of the person.
  • A smile is indicative of mutual acceptance.
  • Using the duck face predicted neuroticism. Who knew the duck face could say so much?
  • Conscientiousness was predicted by being in a public location when the selfie was taken.
  • The amount of openness of the individual was indicated by eye contact with the camera.
  • Nude selfies paint a completely different picture. They are not indicative of person’s desire to engage in sexual activity but rather his or her performance capabilities. A mating ritual of sorts.

The research clearly shows that selfies contain a wealth of visual information. Do you want that information to be used to determine your worth? Imagine what can be done with this information? This is a potential marketing strategy of the future (if that hasn’t already taken place)

No one knows for sure what will become of the selfie but one thing is for certain, they can be used to study how people judge others.

Other works cited: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/linqiu/publications/ACM2015.pdf

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Madeline Foster

Free Lance Writer

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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