How Your Facebook Updates Reveal Your Personality

By Neuroskeptic | November 15, 2014 6:28 am

The words you use in your Facebook posts reveal much about your personality, according to psychologists Gregory Park and colleagues in a new study just published.


Based on a study of 71,000 Facebook users who reported their personality using an app, Park et al. found some quite unexpected words to be associated with given personality traits. Here are the word clouds showing which terms are most predictive of extroversion and introversion:

park_facebook_personality

Extroverts tend to use words like love, tonight, party, excited and amazing. Several length variants of the word soooo and ‘text speak’ terms like lovin and ur, are more often found on extroverts’ updates. In general the extrovert word cloud is sloppy enough to make any ‘Grammar Nazi’ red in the face.

When we come to introverts, use of the word computer was one of the biggest giveaways. Posting status updates about Internet, and to a lesser extent anime, doctor who, and books, were also predictive of introversion.

Even the style of emoticons people use was associated with personality. Extroverts prefer ‘:)’ and ‘;)’ but introverts are more apt to express themselves with o_o and XD.

Finally, it’s noticeable that the introvert word cloud contains a large number of ‘not’ phrases such as won’t, I don’t, isn’t, and doesn’t. Could this mean that introverts see life in more negative terms, and this comes across in their updates? However I wonder if the explanation might be that introverts are just more likely to bother to include the apostrophe when they write such phrases, given that other apostrophe words – it’s, i’ve – are also found in the introverted cloud.

Based on these findings, I thought I’d try to create the most extroverted status in the world:

amazing party tonight :), im sooooo excited with my girls. its gonna be love! u come?

While the most introverted update ever might be…

I shouldn’t read internet o.o, but apparently Doctor Who anime won’t be finished? Evil computer!

Seriously though, Park et al.’s findings are impressive. They found correlations between the update-based estimates of personality, and self-reported personality, with a Pearson r of 0.38 across the Big Five “OCEAN” personality traits –  Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This is a moderate level of agreement, but given that two separate self-report questionnaires of the same trait generally only correlate with a correlation coefficient r of 0.6 to 0.8, it’s far from trivial.

Furthermore, the Facebook update personality estimates were also significantly correlated with informant reports of personality (a questionnaire filled out by someone who knows you). This is important as it goes beyond mere self-report.

The full paper is well worth a read and it includes word clouds for the other four OCEAN personality traits, not just extroversion. Some of these feature a lot of profanity, funnily enough, but here’s the neuroticism cloud, which is pretty safe:

park_facebook_neuroticism

ResearchBlogging.orgPark G, Schwartz HA, Eichstaedt JC, Kern ML, Kosinski M, Stillwell DJ, Ungar LH, & Seligman ME (2014). Automatic Personality Assessment Through Social Media Language. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology PMID: 25365036

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, papers, select, selfreport, Top Posts, you
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  • Eugene Bakman

    I love science, but analyzing Facebook just seems like a waste of effort.

    • Craig_Knaak

      Why? It’s a huge database of human behavior.

      • Eugene Bakman

        This study is absolutely useless.

        • Craig_Knaak

          You repeated yourself without substantiation

          • Eugene Bakman

            You don’t seem to have much of an argument.

          • Jamie Thomas Mee

            I’m with Craig and his point about it being a huge database of human behaviour is correct, you bought nothing to the table.

          • Eugene Bakman

            Nevermind. I give up. You guys have fun celebrating this groundbreaking scientific discovery.

          • Reid

            Haha are you kidding? Facebook, and the internet in general, it’s a fantastic, and very honest source of psychological data. Not only that but ITS FREE!

          • Eugene Bakman

            The idea of using the Internet and especially Facebook for psychological data is a scary one. Imagine someone built a psychological profile of you based solely on your Internet activity. How precise do you expect that profile to be?

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

            That’s pretty much what this study did! And it found that the ‘profile’ was, while not perfect, a fairly good estimate of self- and informant-rated personality.

          • Jespersen

            I would be impressed if the authors managed to find personality correlates that *surpass* self-report (this would make the study useful for something), but as it is, it’s pretty much confirming the obvious.

            I think there might be models for predicting gender and age based on written text that achieve better precision than this study (despite the associations being less clear). Interestingly enough, age groups are much easier to predict than gender.

          • Brendan

            I’d say a report of what we do online would be more accurate than what we do In public

          • Craig_Knaak

            it depends on the intelligence of the data mining. if it were to cross reference your speech patterns with your daily browsing habits and the content of what you browse it could learn quite a lot about you

          • Jerry Johnson

            It may be free to type, but the product(s) you buy to use your keyboard can sure add up.

      • http://dev.blogs.discovermagazine.com Tahnia Lund

        No one in this argument seemed to take into account all the people (in fact, most of the people I know) who simply refuse to spend their valuable time on Facebook. There are so many more interesting and important things to do with their time.

        • Craig_Knaak

          as with anything, it depends on what you make of it. I follow a large number of newsfeeds on facebook from different sources. I basically use it as an RSS feed to keep up on all the topics in which I am interested–ultra marathon running, science and technology, history, writing etc.

          you can bring a negative attitude into anything. Facebook is an incredible tool that if used to its potential can add quite a lot to your life.

    • Roman Cruz

      You seem to miss the point about Facebook making tons of cash analyzing user data. Or do you think they put up a free social network out of the goodness of their hearts? Hell no. It’s about mining the user base for ad revenue, and that means analyzing behavior.

      • leslie borean

        Absolutely right. And like a lot of moneymakers, they are true sleazeballs.

        • Craig_Knaak

          oh c’mon! they are us, people. take responsibility for your own tragedies

    • cnels

      {Repeat of my reply to someone else with the same mistaken idea:} Science and research in an of themselves – whatever they attempt to investigate and explain is never a waste of time. Some of the most seemingly useless and arcane things have, in time, become quite useful in unexpected ways. Even if something never becomes “useful” in a practical way, isn’t it good to know as much as possible how the world works?

  • Tessa Q

    It is a waste of time learning about how persoanlity trait is revealed by an important communication tool that has become part of everyday life for majority of people and will continue to improve the human connectivity?

    • cnels

      Science and research in an of themselves – whatever they attempt to investigate and explain is never a waste of time. Some of the most seemingly useless and arcane things have, in time, become quite useful in unexpected ways. Even if something never becomes “useful” in a practical way, isn’t it good to know as much as possible how the world works?

  • Jespersen

    There have been some pretty fascinating studies done using social networks (like recreating a map of English dialects using Twitter misspellings only, or stalking teenagers’ FB profiles across years to establish that homosexuality isn’t socially transmitted)

    But really… this isn’t one of them.

    People who are more likely to engage in particular social activities are more likely to mention those social activities, apparently. Who would have thought?

    • jim birch

      This would be quite interesting to marketers as it offers a new dimension of targeted advertising.

      • Jespersen

        I don’t think it would provide any extra benefits to advertisers. Targeted advertising already relies on keywords and associations (if you like Doctor Who, you might like Harry Potter, etc.) and this allows for much better precision than using more general personality features would.

        • jim birch

          Maybe. AFAIK current targeting uses keyword to choose who to advertise specific products to. If you visit car-related sites you get car ads, etc. Personality profile could allow the ad content and style to be targeted as well. If you are getting car ads and you are an extrovert you might get the ads selling the sexiness of the product; if you are introvert you get the the ability to escape from difficult social situations into your safe, cocoon-like protective vehicle. Or whatever. This is what a good face-to-face salesman does: reading the customer and framing the message.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      I see your point, but it seems to me that many of this study’s findings are quite unexpected and not merely “duh, obvious”.

      OK, maybe it’s obvious that extroverts would go to more parties. But I didn’t expect to learn that introverts would be more careful about using apostrophes. It makes sense, in retrospect (they’re more ‘uptight’ in general, presumably), but it’s hardly obvious.

  • Chad

    This is an interesting read, given the amount of Facebook users world-wide. Using social media sites for science and education is a great resource. According to this blog, introverts tend to use more negative terms while extroverts seem to use more outgoing and positive language. As an extrovert, I found this to be relevant to my personality.

    • George Bolan

      Let’s not forget that many people on fb are not whom they claim to be. Males become females and vice versa. Why some even become their pets! How can an accurate study be performed if the researchers have no idea as to the real identity of many of the participants? (btw, I am not who I posted as & I used certain words to give the wrong impression that I was introverted), hahaha! Yeah, party on Wayne! Party on Garth. I love football. So who am I really? This is not my computer either. 😀

  • Brittany Raney

    This is important as it goes beyond mere self-report. There are also personality test the have on there to see what kind of personality you have. This reminds me of the IQ test. When you are answering the personality test on Facebook the question repeat them self but in different wording. This could be Facebooks way to make the test reliable, to repeat question and get the same answer.

  • D’Asha

    Facebook is a online separate world full of different personalities and the individuals behaviors. There have been tons of studies done from just watching or even testing people on social media. The blog describes how one who is highly neurotic; introverts use more negative terms while extroverts or one who is not neurotic uses more of a positive language. I believe these observations of someone on social media simply describes an individuals cognition and how they respond to certain situations.

  • debrasimons

    no matter if the study is important to you or not, the data and correlation and observations are pretty common sense and make sense. not earth shattering but pretty apt.

  • Michał Kulczycki

    Interesting, but not really surpising given that Big5 is based on lexical analysis.

  • DJenny

    haahah im an introvert and i use all the extrovert terms

  • http://dev.blogs.discovermagazine.com Nicholas Mcginley

    What an idea!
    The things that one writes and says is influenced by our personality?
    Whod’a thunk it?

  • leslie borean

    Haha. Equating “football” with “not neurotic”.
    Back to square 1 folks. The truth ain’t here.

  • j2saret

    What if I never update?

  • http://dev.blogs.discovermagazine.com Stephanie Feyne

    The conversations mentioned here appear to be those of younger people. I think it’s not very scientific to make a pronouncement about personality types without making considerations for the age, gender, race, ethnicity, social groupings, education, SES, etc. of the posters. I hope the study was more detailed than the article. I am pretty open and extroverted, and yet conscientious, agreeable and probably neurotic. I DON’T (hmm- introverted on their scale?) resort to “Party!” for my posts. In fact, it feels incredibly demeaning to assume that all extroverts behave like college students finally away from home. What happens to extroverted 30 somethings who have children? Their posts might not be as much about partying as about their children’s achievement. Hello – life!

  • JC

    It irritates me that people read an article and then whine in the comments about how it “wasted their time.” Good grief, it probably took about 30 seconds to read. Boo hoo. Instead of “wasting your time” by writing how it wasted your time, just move on. First world problems…smh.

  • polistra24

    If you have Facebook posts you are not an introvert.

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About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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