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Why Left Cheek Selfies Get More Likes on Instagram

New research shows a simple trick to gain more likes on social media.

We all try to look our best when posting pictures of ourselves on social media like Instagram or Facebook. People go a long way to post pictures that engage their followers to leave comments or likes. Some individuals even put themselves in life-threatening situations, such as making a selfie on train tracks with a train approaching, just to get that perfect shot. Thankfully, new research from Australia now shows that there is an easier way to get your followers more engaged and that a simple psychological trick can yield a significant increase in likes on Instagram.

 wilkernet/Pixabay / CC0 license
Turning your head to the left or the right when taking a selfie may influence the number of likes the picture will get on social media.
Source: wilkernet/Pixabay / CC0 license

In a new research paper just published in the scientific journal Laterality, Dr. Annukka K. Lindell from the La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia, could show that whether you put your left or your right cheek forward in a selfie on social media can massively impact the number of likes that picture earns (Lindell, 2018). The researcher identified the top-20 single user Instagram accounts—these included, for example, celebrities like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. From each account, she selected the 10 most recent pictures in which the account holder had put their left cheek forward as well as the 10 most recent pictures in which the account holder had put their right cheek forward, resulting in an overall data set of 400 pictures. Overall, these pictures had gained more than a billion likes and 14 million comments. Statistical analysis showed that left cheek pictures gained more than 10 percent more likes than right cheek pictures. While this does not sound like much, for the analyzed accounts there were on average 330,000 more likes for a left cheek picture than for a right cheek picture – a very substantial number!

Interestingly, most of us seem to intuitively put our left cheek forward when creating pictures for social media. In a previous research paper, published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology, Dr. Lindell analyzed 2,000 selfies on Instagram for the preferred pose (Lindell, 2017). The result? Overall, 41 percent of individuals showed a left cheek bias, while 31.5 percent showed a preference for the right check. The rest of the individuals showed no clear preference for the left or the right side.

So why do we prefer left cheek pictures? The answer very likely lies in the way our brain processes emotions. While both hemispheres (i.e., halves of the brain) are involved in emotion processing, research shows that there is often a stronger involvement of right-hemispheric brain areas in the processing and expression of emotions. Along these lines, previous research has shown that the left side of the face, whose muscles are controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain, is emotionally more expressive (Nicholls et al., 2004). Thus, a left check selfie is more likely to gather the viewers’ attention as more emotions are expressed in it, resulting in more likes.

So the next time you take a selfie for one of your social media accounts, remember: always put your left cheek forward!


Lindell AK. (2018). Left cheek poses garner more likes: the effect of pose orientation on Instagram engagement. Laterality, in press.

Lindell AK. (2017). Consistently Showing Your Best Side? Intra-individual Consistency in #Selfie Pose Orientation. Front Psychol, 8, 246.

Nicholls ME, Ellis BE, Clement JG, Yoshino M. (2004). Detecting hemifacial asymmetries in emotional expression with three-dimensional computerized image analysis. Proc Biol Sci, 271, 663-668.

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