Monday, 12 July 2010

The links between bloggers' personalities and their use of words

You can tell a person's personality from the words they use. Neurotics have a penchant for negative words; agreeable types for words pertaining to socialising; and so on. We know this from recordings of people's speech and from brief writing tasks. Now Tal Yarkoni has extended this line of research to the blogosphere by analysing the content of 694 blogs - containing an average of 115,000 words written over an average period of about two years - and matching this with the bloggers' (predominantly female; average age 36) answers to online personality questionnaires.

Some commentators have suggested that the internet allows people to present idealised versions of themselves to the world. Contrary to that idea, Yarkoni found that bloggers' choice of words consistently related to their personality type just as has been found in past offline research.

More neurotic bloggers used more words associated with negative emotions; extravert bloggers used more words pertaining to positive emotions; high scorers on agreeableness avoided swear words and used more words related to communality; and conscientious bloggers mentioned more words with achievement connotations. These were all as expected. More of a surprise was the lack of a link between the Big Five personality factor of 'openness to experience' and word categories related to intellectual or sensory experience. Instead openness was associated with more use of prepositions, more formal language and longer words.

The sheer size of the data set at Yarkoni's disposal allowed him to look not only at links between personality factors and broad word categories (as past research has done) but to also zoom in on the usage of specific words. Among the most strong and intriguing correlations were: Neuroticism correlated with use of 'irony' and negatively correlated with 'invited'; Extraversion correlated with 'drinks' and negatively correlated with 'computer'; Openness correlated with 'ink'; Agreeableness with 'wonderful' and negatively correlated with 'porn'; and Conscientiousness correlated with 'completed' and negatively correlated with 'boring'.

'The results underscore the importance of studying the influence of personality on word use at multiple levels of analysis,' Yarkoni concluded, 'and provide a novel approach for refining existing categorical word taxonomies and identifying new and unexpected associations with personality.'

ResearchBlogging.orgYarkoni, T. (2010). Personality in 100,000 Words: A large-scale analysis of personality and word use among bloggers. Journal of Research in Personality, 44 (3), 363-373 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2010.04.001

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

On a related note, don't forget our recent Bloggers Behind the (psychology) Blogs interview series.


Anonymous said...

A website I've used to think about my various websites, classifies sites into MBTI types:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this works the other way, too: Can a person become less neurotic if they train themselves to use more positive language? CBT would suggest this could work, unless I am mistaken....?

justin said...

Anonymous #2: There's reason to believe that might work.

In one study from Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, Fitzsimons and Kay (2004) had people think about their romantic partner and complete sentences that started with plural pronouns like "We _________" or with singular pronouns like "He and I _________ ". The people who used "we" stems felt closer to their partners and had reported higher relationship quality.

In another study, it also worked when participants described an interaction they had just had with a confederate. People completing sentences beginning with "We..." felt closer than people completing those that began with "She and I..."

Anonymous said...

The MBTI has lost some credibility with the research community, but many of us continue to use it because it's most accessible (which is it's own downfall)

Anonymous said...

I know the flaws of the MBTI, but it has correlations with the Big 5, and it seems valid for my sites, when using

glenmichael said...

Openness to experience.. can't be associated with intellectual or sensory experiences. Openness .. means practically nothing ( or what the author wants it to mean ).It self-referential and can't be counted upon to provide concrete linguistic proof of experience. What is intellectual and sensory experience other than everything?

I would like to see how these blogs use particular words and phrasings , rather than apply a category to them and discover usage. Even the surprises here come as no surprise IMHO.

Please, use Corpus methodology to reveal real discoveries rather than confirming intuition.. and suggesting that particular words should be revealing more than they really are.

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