‘Agreeableness, openness, extraversion, conscientiousness and neuroticism’ – do any of these descriptive words fit your personality? They should, according to psychologists and computer science researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. The ‘Big Five’ as the researchers called these personality traits were selected as part of the largest language study involving Facebook.

The Study

75,000 volunteers took part in the linguistic study by completing a personality questionnaire after which the researchers studied their Facebook language and analysed their linguistic patterns. Computer models were then created by drawing on over 700 million words and phrases.

What the Results Showed

These computer models were able to accurately predict each volunteer’s age, gender and response to the personality questionnaire with an accuracy of 92%. An ‘open-vocabulary technique’ allowed researchers to study the linguistic patterns in more depth than if they had used a list of predetermined words, such as ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘contented’, which would have produced more obvious personality predictions.

The language relating to each of the ‘Big Five’ personality traits was grouped into word clouds which allowed the researchers to study the correlation between them. Many were obvious results – extraverts would mention words such as parties, fun and excitement; emotionally stable people would use words relating to sport, families and weekend plans – but there were also a surprising amount of words present in each personality trait that researchers didn’t expect to show up.

How Can the Results be Used?

By using the word clouds to link personality traits with language used, psychological interventions can be made to affect an individual’s behaviour. For instance, if someone suffers from neuroticism, this study shows that participating in sports can bring them more emotional stability.

What are your personality traits and would your own word cloud accurately reflect them? Do you have any negative traits that you could possibly alter by using the results of this study?