So we take mental selfies! Psychologists manage to visualize them and compare them with real images

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Psychologists from Bangor University and the University of London (UK) have reconstructed how we manage to produce our mental selfies

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THEera of the selfie Has it turned us into narcissistic and obsessed with looks? There is no evidence, but it is certain that our mind produces images of ourselves, and now the psychologists of Bangor University and the University of London (UK) have reconstructed how we manage to produce our own. mental selfies.

Researchers have developed a method for visualizing the "mental self-portraits" jealously guarded in our brains and explored the extent to which these internal images can deviate from what others see, demonstrating how these can be influenced by our beliefs about our personality and our self-esteem.

The mental images of the faces of the study participants were reconstructed, in particular, using a computer-based technique used in the past to help psychologists visualize how we mentally see things.

To create a mental selfie, the participants were shown two random faces and asked to choose the one most similar, according to their perception, to their own face, and the process was then repeated several hundred times. 

©Bangor University

Eventually, the researchers made a 'digital media' of all the chosen images, allowing them to view the participants' 'mental selfies'.

©Bangor University

Curiously, the team found that people's mental images of how they look were not necessarily realistic, rather influenced by the personality type that the participants thought they had.

We asked participants to generate their own computer-generated "mental self-portrait" - explains Lara Maister, lead author of the research - and also to answer questionnaires on personality and self-esteem so that it was possible to reveal what kind of person they thought they were. . We found that their beliefs about themselves strongly influenced how they imagined how they looked. For example, if a person believed he was an extrovert, he imagined their faces more confident and sociable than they appeared to others.

In a second study, the team used the same approach to visualize people's mental images of their body appearance, discovering once again that not only did people have unrealistic mental images of their bodies, but also that these mental images were strongly influenced by their attitudes towards themselves rather than their true appearance.

©Psychological Science

In particular, people with very negative emotional attitudes towards their appearance tended to imagine themselves as having a much larger body than reality.

Read also: How to find and increase self-esteem in 10 steps

E not just a scientific curiosity.

The work will help us understand more about body image - reports Matthew Longo, co-author of the study - For the first time, we can get an idea of ​​how other people imagine they look, in healthy people and those suffering from body image disturbances such as the disturbance of body dysmorphism

Doctors currently support people with body image disorders using questionnaires that assess whether the patient's negative beliefs about himself have changed. But applying this method could provide a new for measure whether therapies have been successful.

Furthermore, the development of such a tool could assess whether the individual's mental image of their appearance has also changed.

The work was published in Psychological Science.

Fonti: Bangor University / Psychological Science

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