Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

The Blogging Personality

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ResearchBlogging.org

You all read blogs, and many of you write them, too. But what sort of person writes a blog? Are there particular personality traits that make certain people more likely to write a blog? If so, what are those personality traits? Do you have them, too?


A team of scientists, led by psychologist Rosanna Guadagno from the University of Alabama, wondered what personality traits made some people more likely than others to write blogs. To answer these questions, Guadagno and her colleagues used the Big Five personality inventory test to measure five key personality traits in college students who write blogs.

The Big Five personality traits are five broad personality factors that had been discovered throughout repeated psychological research during the middle of the twentieth century. As agreed by the professionals in the field, these Big Five factors are Openness to new experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN) and each comprises a cluster of more specific personality traits that correlate together. For example, Neuroticism includes such related qualities as a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily and is sometimes referred to as emotional instability. One of the Big Five qualities, Openness — which comprises an appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experiences — is still widely discussed in the literature, where it is often referred to as “intellect.” Nevertheless, despite some discussion among the experts as to how to define the subtle nuances of these five qualities, research shows that they become stable measurable personality qualities in humans after they’ve reached adulthood. So how do these personality traits correlate to blog writing?

To answer these questions, Guadagno and her team surveyed more than 300 college students from the University of Alabama and Southeastern University about their blog writing and reading habits and had them all complete the Big Five Personality Inventory test.

According to their results, Guadagno’s team found that high scores for two of the Big Five qualities strongly predicted blog writing activity: Openness to new experience and Neuroticism. Considering that blog writing and reading is a new activity that was mostly unheard of even five years ago, Openness to new experiences is a logical prerequisite for adopting in this behavior. High Neuroticism is also not a surprising finding, since even bloggers refer to writing about personal experiences as “navel gazing” — neurotic behavior.

Guadagno’s team also found some gender differences. For example, women with a high Neuroticism score who were also lonely were more likely to write a blog, while this was not the case among men who write blogs.

Like all good studies, this one suggests a large number and variety of questions that are worth investigating: for example, it would be instructive to examine the content of blogs to determine whether they reflect aspects of an individual’s personality; whether a blog writer’s word choice predicts their ability to cope with traumatic events; and especially, to learn more about why people write blogs (coping, reaching out for social support, etc.)? Personally, I am curious to know if certain types of blogs are predicted by particular personality traits, for example, are blogs about science or about one’s career predicted by a different group of personality traits than blogs about dating or one’s personal life?

Additionally, Guadagno cautions that her team’s results may not be more widely applicable beyond her sample group: American college students, an age group whose Big Five personality traits are still undergoing some changes. But she reminds us that understanding blog writing is a worthwhile goal.

“One thing that remains clear is that blogs are a form of online expression that is gaining in popularity and that they represent one of the newer forms of online social interaction,” write the authors in their paper. “As such, it is important for social scientists to continue to examine this phenomenon to fully understand its affects on psychological processes that differentiate it from other similar forms of self-expression.”

Of course, I was quite interested and took this Big Five personality test. My results are;

Your score on Extraversion is average, indicating you are neither a subdued loner nor a jovial chatterbox. You enjoy time with others but also time alone. [my score: 45%]

Your high level of Agreeableness indicates a strong interest in others’ needs and well-being. You are pleasant, sympathetic, and cooperative. [my score: 77%]

Your score on Conscientiousness is high. This means you set clear goals and pursue them with determination. People regard you as reliable and hard-working. [my score: 96%]

Your score on Neuroticism is average, indicating that your level of emotional reactivity is typical of the general population. Stressful and frustrating situations are somewhat upsetting to you, but you are generally able to get over these feelings and cope with these situations. [my score: 40%]

Your score on Openness to Experience is high, indicating you enjoy novelty, variety, and change. You are curious, imaginative, and creative. [my score: 99%]

My Agreeableness score is higher than I’d expected since I am not much of a cooperator in real life (I am outspoken and opinionated which makes me mostly a loner, although I am very concerned about others’ welfare).

How did you score? Do you agree with those scores? Do you write a blog? Do you think these personality traits are predictive for blog writing?

Source

Guadagno, R., Okdie, B., Eno, C. (2008). Who blogs? Personality predictors of blogging. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 1993-2004. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2007.09.001.

Comments

  1. #1 John
    August 19, 2008

    Low on extroversion, high on neuroticism, and average on the rest. That sounds about right.

    I think that an individual’s combination of personality factors will probably influence the type of blog the person writes. An introvert like me is unlikely to share a lot of personal details, whereas an extrovert might do so.

  2. #2 locksmyth
    August 19, 2008

    Extraversion……………15
    Your score on Extraversion is low, indicating you are introverted, reserved, and quiet. You enjoy solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends.
    Agreeableness…………..60
    Your level of Agreeableness is average, indicating some concern with others’ Needs, but, generally, unwillingness to sacrifice yourself for others.
    Conscientiousness……….24
    Your score on Conscientiousness is low, indicating you like to live for the moment and do what feels good now. Your work tends to be careless and disorganized.
    Neuroticism…………….62
    Your score on Neuroticism is average, indicating that your level of emotional reactivity is typical of the general population. Stressful and frustrating situations are somewhat upsetting to you, but you are generally able to get over these feelings and cope with these situations.
    Openess to experience…..84
    Your score on Openness to Experience is high, indicating you enjoy novelty, variety, and change. You are curious, imaginative, and creative.

  3. #3 Clark
    August 19, 2008

    There was an other study (albeit less scientific) using these tests by bloggers. Chris at Mixing Memory and Richard at Philosophy Et Cetra asked people to take the test and post the results. I don’t remember what happened with the data. I believe it might have been correlated with political tests. Here were my results and here’s info on the “meme.”

  4. #4 Thomas M.
    August 19, 2008

    Extraversion……………8

    Your score on Extraversion is low, indicating you are introverted, reserved, and quiet. You enjoy solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends.

    Agreeableness…………..43

    Your level of Agreeableness is average, indicating some concern with others’ Needs, but, generally, unwillingness to sacrifice yourself for others.

    Conscientiousness……….53

    Your score on Conscientiousness is average. This means you are reasonably reliable, organized, and self-controlled.

    Neuroticism…………….64

    Your score on Neuroticism is average, indicating that your level of emotional reactivity is typical of the general population. Stressful and frustrating situations are somewhat upsetting to you, but you are generally able to get over these feelings and cope with these situations.

    Openess to experience…..29

    Your score on Openness to Experience is low, indicating you like to think in plain and simple terms. Others describe you as down-to-earth, practical,and conservative.

    This is particularly interesting to compare with the scores I (probably) would have received three or so years ago. I’m pretty sure my agreeableness/altruism factor would have been through the roof back then. I also got a chuckle out of the fact that apparently my neutrality in terms of voting consistently left wing is what dragged my ‘openness to new experience’ down.

  5. #5 Jenny
    August 19, 2008

    Believe it or not, I took the NEO-FFI (another Big 5 personality test) the other week. I was administering it to some folks, and since it’s self-scoring, I wondered how I would make out. Very high in Openness and Extraversion, high in Agreeableness, medium in Neuroticism, low in Conscientiousness. This last value caused my colleagues some dismay, as I’m a the program manager, and not someone you want to be low in Conscientiousness.

    I think John is probably onto something – I started blogging a few years ago when I moved away from graduate school. I had lots of friends and I knew I wouldn’t be able to call them all to let them know how I was doing. So, I started a blog. And very high in E.

  6. #6 Andy Holroyd
    August 20, 2008

    This was interesting. I’m sure if I had answered this 10 or 20 years ago my scores would have been very different.

    Extraversion……………23
    Agreeableness…………..95
    Conscientiousness……….1
    Neuroticism…………….54
    Openness to experience…..80

    Yes, my ‘Conscientiousness’ was 1. I think ‘room tidying’ had much to do with this :)
    but here’s the breakdown
    Self-Efficacy…………17
    Orderliness…………..0
    Dutifulness…………..16
    Achievement-Striving…..0
    Self-Discipline……….17
    Cautiousness………….44

    But what? ‘Achievement-Striving’ = zero! Well I suppose it’s true, I just get on with it and do stuff. ie research technician in biochemistry for 30 yrs, gained a PhD in ’95 by sleep depravation, married/separated etc, now working in IT.
    As a hobby I play rock bass guitar, but I don’t want the spotlight on me. I’m happiest at the back, working with the drummer. I enjoy just being a part of a larger experience.

    What does it all say? I’m introverted and I don’t give a monkey’s fu**?

  7. #7 jdc
    August 21, 2008

    I mentioned this paper on my blog and someone kindly pointed me to your post. Having followed your link to the Big Five test I have confirmed my prejudices and thought I might as well share – bit embarrassed about quite how neurotic I am though! [It was mostly anxiety and self-consciousness that came through on the neuroticism section - so at least I'm not overly angry :)]

    Extraversion……………4
    Agreeableness…………..33
    Conscientiousness……….18
    Neuroticism…………….99
    Openness to experience…..42

    Cheers, jdc.

  8. #8 Sue
    August 21, 2008

    I would really be curious to see what would happen if one could give this test to a real cross section of bloggers. I read a lot of different types of blogs – many of them only one time. The people whose blogs I end up bookmarking and returning to probably all are high on the “openness to experience;” but I also visit a lot of blogs that appear to me to be exercises in reinforcing, and getting a small group of others to support in reinforcing a very narrow range of ideas and experiences. There does seem to be some evidence emerging in the social sciences that people seek out media (whether on television or on the internet) that simply reinforces their existing values, beliefs and experiences.

  9. #9 leigh
    August 21, 2008

    extraversion – 36
    agreeableness – 78
    conscientiousness – 67
    neuroticism – 16
    openness – 99

  10. #10 jdc
    August 22, 2008

    Sue – I hadn’t seen your comment at the time I wrote my second blog post on this subject, but I said something similar: “I imagine the findings may have been different if the authors had looked at different types of blogger (i.e., those blogging on specific subjects). It would be interesting to see the results of a study using the Big Five test and looking at homeopathy blogs, pseudoscicence blogs etc.”

    Interesting point about people seeking out media that reinforces their existing views, too. I think blogs and their authors could be a really rich vein for researchers to explore.

    Grrl Scientist: I’m going to be a bit cheeky now and pimp my second blog post on Gaudagno – http://jdc325.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/what-kind-of-person-blogs-part-two/ – hope that self-publicity is OK!

  11. #11 James Igoe
    August 23, 2008

    These scores are fairly standard for me, and correlate with my MBTI scores. There has been some research showing high correlation on 2 dimensions of the MBTI with the Big Five, and moderate correlation on the other 2. On the MBTI I score as an INTJ, or in Big Five terms, Introvert Open Thinking Conscientious.

    E: 21, strong correlation with Extraversion/Introversion
    A: 63, minor correlation of Thinking/Feeling
    C: 83, moderate correlation with Judging/Perceiving
    N: 0,
    O: 78, strong correlation with Intuitive/Sensing

  12. #12 Stephanie C
    August 25, 2008

    As some others have mentioned, it would be interesting to know if there is an effect of what one actually blogs about. After all, the study was done on college students. Writing a Livejournal blog about your social life seems like it would have only some things in common with writing, say, a science blog. On the other hand, the desire to be in the public eye probably drives at least some of what we do as bloggers, and it’s just a matter of finding something to write about that interests us or that we know something about. It’s not like I’d get very far writing a blog about, say, television personalities.

    I took the quiz (I’m another science blogger) and was high in Neuroticism and Conscientiousness, low on Agreeableness, and average on everything else. Interesting that between myself and GrrlScientist, one of us is high in Neuroticism and one of us is high in Openness, the two traits that were predicted by the study.

    More detail on my blog at http://sciencegeekgirl.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/who-am-i-anyway-that-i-write-this-here-blog/

  13. #13 James Igoe
    August 25, 2008

    In a study of teachers’ internet use by Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), web users were more often introvert, intuitive (correlates strongly with openness), feeling, and perceiving. In terms of the Big Five, it corresponds low extraversion, high openness, and low conscientiousness.

    Just a quick review of posters, show a preponderance of high openness. low conscientiousness, and low extraversion scores.

  14. #14 Natalie
    October 1, 2008

    Very interesting research and as others say, more is needed to understand the full spectrum of blogs on the internet.

    Maybe all kinds of personalities will appear to be present, since so many people are writing blogs (there are now 133 milion blogs, according to Technorati). I can only imagine extraversion as being significantly predictable for blog writing; or for doing any other innovative thing on the internet.

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