Scientists who post “selfies” in their Instagram feeds foster trust and help change public stereotypes that scientists are competent but not warm, according to a new study conducted in part by LSU.
The study—“Using selfies to challenge public stereotypes of scientists”—was conducted by a research team including LSU, the University of Delaware, U.C. Berkeley and University of Toronto. Their findings build on seminal work by Princeton University social psychologist Susan Fiske suggesting that scientists have earned Americans’ respect but not their trust.
A total of 1,620 participants took an online survey, answering questions about their perceptions of certain scientists based on images published to one of four different “Scientists of Instagram” rotation-curation accounts.
Participants who saw images including a scientist’s smiling face viewed scientists in the images and scientists in general as significantly warmer than people who saw control images or images of scientific environments or equipment that did not include a person.
This perception of warmth was especially prominent among people who saw images featuring a female scientist’s face, the study found. There was also a slight increase in the perceived competence of female scientists in selfies, likely due to the presence of certain competence cues such as lab coats and equipment.
Read an LSU announcement revealing the study’s findings.