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Words, words, words… Local researcher connects blogging and personality


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When I say “together” do you perceive me to have an agreeable personality? If I say “lazy” do you automatically presume me to be a person showing neuroticism? The typical human being might not link such subtleties in word choice to personality; however, new critics, with a trained eye, are able to decipher personality through word choice used periodically in ongoing blogs.

This brings up the daunting idea that: If you keep a blog, you might be sharing more than you anticipated about yourself and your life.

Tal Yarkoni, a local affiliated with the psychology and neuroscience post-doctoral program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has conducted a study linking word choice with personality, specifically using blogs.

The study is more than just another study of language; it’s a study of blogging. Blogging has become a pop-culture phenomenon spanning age, race and gender, so, in turn, it has become a thing worth studying. This is the beginning of an opportunity to look into small increments of the written word over long periods of time; a person can obviously learn a great deal from this pursuit.

It is exciting, it is new and it is popular—why not examine it?

In a press release, Yarkoni tells why blogs are the perfect medium for this study.

“People have been interested in personality and language for a long time, but it’s really hard to get somebody to sit down and write 100,000 words. The nice thing about bloggers is they write a lot, often over very long periods of time,” he says in the release. “You can look at what time of day people post to their blogs; you can look at how many online connections they have. It turns out that there’s a relationship between extraversion and the number of online friends you have—even in cases where they’re people you don’t already know off-line. You can reasonably predict how extraverted someone is based on the number of online connections they’ve formed.”

Blogging is increasing in popularity as the broad variety of users widens from celebrities to students to travelers. Critics and psychologists are beginning to deeply analyze the linguistics of the blogger. Yarkoni’s findings on word choice in blog and personalities have been published in the Journal of Research in Personality. It is truly amazing, and borderline creepy, what kinds of opinions and observations a trained eye can conclude about a blogger after looking at a series of blog entries.

Yarkoni’s research brought about interest in variations between online and offline individuals. He looked into the idea that people act differently online and offline. He found that they don’t.

“The results converge with other recent findings suggesting that, contrary to popular wisdom, people do not present themselves in an idealized and overly positive way online, and maintain online identities that reflect the way they genuinely see themselves and are seen by others.”

He goes on to further explain, “If you’re sociable and like to seek out people offline, you’re probably going to do the same thing online. If you complain a lot when you’re around your offline friends, you may very well complain about similar things in your online blog. Our personalities don’t dramatically change just because we’ve turned on our computers.”

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