The study also identified three categories of selfie-takers: communicators, autobiographers and self-publicists.
“It is important to recognise that not everyone is a narcissist,” said Steven Holiday, from Texas Tech University in the US.
Communicators take selfies primarily to engage their friends, family or followers in a conversation, “they are all about two-way communication,” said researchers.
Autobiographers use selfies as a tool to record key events in their lives and preserve significant memories.
While people in this group still want others to see their photos, they are not necessarily seeking the feedback and engagement that communicators are.
Self-publicists, actually the smallest of the three groups, “are the people who love documenting their entire lives,” said Harper Anderson from Texas Tech.
“And in documenting and sharing their lives, they are hoping to present themselves and their stories in a positive light,” said Anderson.
Identifying and categorising the three groups is valuable in part because “it is a different kind of photography than we have ever experienced before,” said Holiday.
“I can go on Facebook or Instagram and see that people have a desire to participate in a conversation. It is an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression,” Holiday added.
Understanding people’s motives can in turn be valuable, said researchers “because years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies. To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”
The study appears in the journal Visual Communication Quarterly.