Scientists determine four personality types based on new data

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Comprehensive data analysis dispels established paradigms in psychology

Summary:
Researchers have sifted through data from more than 1.5 million questionnaire respondents and found at least four distinct clusters of personality types exist: average, reserved, self-centered and role model. They are based on the five widely accepted basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The findings challenge existing paradigms in psychology and potentially could be of interest to hiring managers and mental health care providers.
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The four newly determined personality types are based on five widely-recognized character traits.
Credit: Northwestern University
Northwestern University researchers have sifted through data from more than 1.5 million questionnaire respondents and found at least four distinct clusters of personality types exist: average, reserved, self-centered and role model. The findings challenge existing paradigms in psychology.

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The new study, led by Luís Amaral of the McCormick School of Engineering, will be published Sept. 17 by the journal Nature Human Behaviour. The findings potentially could be of interest to hiring managers and mental health care providers.

“People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates’ time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense,” said co-author William Revelle, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“Now, these data show there are higher densities of certain personality types,” said Revelle, who specializes in personality measurement, theory and research.

Initially, however, Revelle was skeptical of the study’s premise. The concept of personality types remains controversial in psychology, with hard scientific proof difficult to find. Previous attempts based on small research groups created results that often were not replicable.

“Personality types only existed in self-help literature and did not have a place in scientific journals,” said Amaral, the Erastus Otis Haven Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern Engineering. “Now, we think this will change because of this study.”

The new research combined an alternative computational approach with data from four questionnaires with more than 1.5 million respondents from around the world obtained from John Johnson’s IPIP-NEO with 120 and 300 items, respectively, the myPersonality project and the BBC Big Personality Test datasets. The questionnaires, developed by the research community over the decades, have between 44 and 300 questions. People voluntarily take the online quizzes attracted by the opportunity to receive feedback about their own personality. These data are now being made available to other researchers for independent analyses.

“The thing that is really, really cool is that a study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web,” Amaral said. “Previously, maybe researchers would recruit undergrads on campus, and maybe get a few hundred people. Now, we have all these online resources available, and now data is being shared.”

From those robust datasets, the team plotted the five widely accepted basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

After developing new algorithms, four clusters emerged:

Average Average people are high in neuroticism and extraversion, while low in openness. “I would expect that the typical person would be in this cluster,” said Martin Gerlach, a postdoctoral fellow in Amaral’s lab and the paper’s first author. Females are more likely than males to fall into the Average type.
Reserved The Reserved type is emotionally stable, but not open or neurotic. They are not particularly extraverted but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
Role Models Role Models score low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits.

Source:
Northwestern University.

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