Self-presentation in scholarly profiles: Characteristics of images and perceptions of professionalism and attractiveness on academic social networking sites

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Online self-presentation is of increasing importance in modern life, from establishing and maintaining personal relationships to forging professional identities. Academic scholars are no exception, and a host of social networking platforms designed specifically for scholars abound. This study used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to code 10,500 profile pictures used by scholars on three platforms — Mendeley, Microsoft Academic Search, and Google Scholar — in order to determine how academics are presenting themselves to their colleagues and to the public at large and how they are perceived — particularly in relation to professionalism and attractiveness. The majority of the individuals on Mendeley, Microsoft Academic Search, and Google Scholar were Caucasian, male, and perceived to be over the age of 35. Females and younger individuals were perceived as less professional than male and older individuals, while women were more likely to be perceived as “attractive.” In addition, the Mechanical Turk coders were susceptible to framing; the individuals in the profile pictures were considered more “professional” if they were identified as “scholars” rather than merely as “individuals.” The results have far-reaching implications for self-presentation and framing, both for scholars and for other professionals. In the academic realm, there are serious implications for hiring and the allocation of resources and rewards.

This content has been updated on May 5th, 2017 at 11 h 24 min.