American Behavioral Scientist Article Analysis [Task 1]

The information we receive through viewing Facebook profiles come in two forms; visual and textual (verbal).  The article by Pelled et al. (2017) Textual Primacy Online: Impression Formation Based on Textual and Visual Cues in Facebook Profiles examines the central question ‘which elements on Facebook profiles exert a stronger influence on the process of impression formation – pictures or text?’

Generally, the primary cues used in determining impressions are visual, however when visual and verbal cues contradict each other, the verbal cues are relied on more heavily for receiving information. The nature of Facebook has created a culture in which users self-censor, and choose to post only the content they deem most desirable to their audience. However, Pelled et al. (2017) found that internet users are generally aware of the ease of users manipulating information on Facebook, and often look for further cues to inform their judgements, than taking visual information as it originally appears. This can be seen in the way users seek information that cannot be influenced by the original poster (such as friends’ comments and likes), as well as their attention given to textual cues. Pelled et al. further found that ‘heavy’ users of Facebook are more sceptical of information being presented on social media, and process all information presented to them, whether visual or verbal, whereas ‘light’ users are more content to focus on textual cues.

Van Der Heide, D’Angelo & Shumaker (2012, as cited in Pelled at al., 2017), found that visual cues depicting extroversion (a desirable quality) were perceived as extroverted regardless of textual cues. However, when a visually introverted cue was presented, the perceiver sought further information from the verbal statement. Through their subsequent study, Pelled et al. (2017) reasoned that presenting introversion as a personal quality on Facebook is so atypical that it attracts further attention from all users. Other, more typical qualities, such as extroversion, are easily overlooked and assumed as correct when users are not paying specific attention to conflicting cues.

This study was interesting, particularly as someone who feels very aware of the opportunities to manipulate self-presentation on Facebook, to understand some of the cognition behind interpreting other users’ Facebook profiles. Pelled et al. (2017) mention that future studies should replicate their own using social networking platforms that rely more heavily on either verbal or visual cues to provide information. A study of this sort would interest me even further, as I am sure there is an unconscious bias in these platforms to give precedence to information being provided by the cue that each platform is most well known for.



Pelled, A., Zilberstein, T., Tsirulnikov, A., Pick, E., Patkin, Y., & Tal-Or, N. (2017). Textual primacy online: Impression formation based on textual and visual cues in Facebook profiles. American Behavioral Scientist, 61(7), 672-687.

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