Cultural influences on Facebook photographs

Chih-Mao Huang*, Denise Park

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations


Prior research in social psychology indicates that East Asians from collectivistic and interdependent sociocultural systems are more sensitive to contextual information than Westerners, whereas Westerners with individualistic and independent representation have a tendency to process focal and discrete attributes of the environment. Here we have demonstrated that such systematic cultural variations can also be observed in cyberspace, focusing on self-presentation of photographs on Facebook, the most popular worldwide online social network site. We examined cultural differences in face/frame ratios for Facebook profile photographs in two studies. For Study 1, 200 digital profile face photographs of active Facebook users were randomly selected from native and immigrant Taiwanese and Americans. For Study 2, 312 Facebook profiles of undergraduate students of six public universities in East Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan) and the United States (California and Texas) were randomly selected. Overall, the two studies clearly showed that East Asian Facebook users are more likely to deemphasize their faces compared to Americans. Specifically, East Asians living in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan exhibited a predilection for context inclusiveness in their profile photographs, whereas Americans tended to prioritize their focal face at the expense of the background. Moreover, East Asian Facebook users had lower intensity of facial expression than Americans on their photographs. These results demonstrate marked cultural differences in context-inclusive styles versus object-focused styles between East Asian and American Facebook users. Our findings extend previous findings from the real world to cyberspace, and provide a novel approach to investigate cognition and behaviors across cultures by using Facebook as a data collection platform. The authors would like to thank Gina Bufton, Hsu-Wen Huang, and Mitch Meltzer for the contributions to the material collection and characteristic coding of Facebook profile photographs. This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging NIA R01 AG015047 awarded to Denise C. Park.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-343
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2013


  • Context processing
  • Cultural differences
  • Culture and cognition
  • Facebook
  • Self-concept

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