August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Upside-Down Selfies Look Much More Alert and Awake
Author Affiliations
  • Michael K. McBeath
    Arizona State University
    Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
  • Mathew D. Langley
    Arizona State University
  • Sophia Baia
    Arizona State University
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5943. doi:
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      Michael K. McBeath, Mathew D. Langley, Sophia Baia; Upside-Down Selfies Look Much More Alert and Awake. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5943.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Introduction: For practical reasons, cameras on cell phones and laptops are routinely located above the display. This allows better visibility, minimizes interference from the user’s hands, and affords a more natural projection angle than if located below the display. Yet, an unintended consequence is that in selfies and when video conferencing with others, the user’s eyes are typically focused below the camera on the middle of the screen. This favors recording a somewhat downward gaze direction that might be interpreted to indicate tiredness and inattention. Turning the phone upside-down or otherwise positioning the camera at the bottom of the display might then produce an image that appears more awake and alert. Methods: 100 naïve volunteers took selfies on cell phones while staring at the bridge of their nose, both with their phone upright and upside-down. They then indicated which photo appeared more awake and alert versus more tired and inattentive. Results: Over 90% of participants indicated the upside-down selfie appeared more awake and alert (z > 8, p < 0.0001, a very large effect). The few exceptions appeared to be due to paying attention to other facial features such as unintended changes in expression or their make-up appearing less flattering in the upside-down selfie. Discussion: The findings confirm a very strong tendency for upright selfies with the camera above the screen to appear more tired and inattentive compared to ones taken upside-down with the camera located below the screen. The findings are consistent with people judging attentiveness based on gaze angle relative to the camera, with practical implications in the design of visual interaction devices like cell phones, tablets, and lap tops. We suggest that most users would prefer positioning cameras on the bottom of displays once they become aware of the increased impression of attentiveness that it produces.


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