Who am I, and why do I blog?

by Stephanie Chasteen on August 24, 2008

Over at Living the Scientific Life, GrrrlScientist writes about a study matching the Big Five Personality Traits to people who 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?

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.

So, of course, I had to take the quiz.

  • Your score on Extraversion is average (52%) , indicating you are neither a subdued loner nor a jovial chatterbox. You enjoy time with others but also time alone.
  • Your score on Agreeableness is low (26%), indicating less concern with others’ needs Than with your own. People see you as tough, critical, and uncompromising. [Lest you all think I’m a terrible person, I did score high on the sub-portions of Trust, Cooperation, and Sympathy]
  • Your score on Conscientiousness is high (68%). This means you set clear goals and pursue them with determination. People regard you as reliable and hard-working.
  • Your score on Neuroticism is high (85%), indicating that you are easily upset, even by what most people consider the normal demands of living. People consider you to be sensitive and emotional. [Heh, no surprise to me]
  • Your score on Openness to Experience is average (43%), indicating you enjoy tradition but are willing to try new things. Your thinking is neither simple nor complex. To others you appear to be a well-educated person but not an intellectual

Grrlscientist also couldn’t resist the temptation and she took the quiz, finding out that she’s

  • Average in Extroversion (45%)
  • High in Agreeableness (77%)
  • High in Conscientiousness (96%)
  • Average Neuroticism (40%)
  • High Openness to New Experiences (99%)

So, it’s interesting that neither of us quite fit the blogger profile (high in Neuroticism and Openness to Experience). I was high in Neuroticism (but average in Openness) and GrrlScientist was high in Openness (but average in Neuroticism).

Another blogger wrote about this piece of research, and also found himself high in Neuroticism.

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.


Ben August 26, 2008 at 1:19 am

I don’t think that’s the right basis set. Maybe this would work better – seems to be the best fundamental force quiz on quizilla.

jdc325 August 26, 2008 at 8:55 am

I’m a bit surprised more bloggers haven’t looked at this. Apart from the post I wrote (which you very kindly linked to) I’ve only seen yours and Grrl Scientist’s pieces

“As some others have mentioned, it would be interesting to know if there is an effect of what one actually blogs about.”
That was one of the things that interested me too. I’d love to see what type of personality blogged about, say, sport or homeopathy. I’ve got my own prejudices about the personality types involved in blogging about these subjects and I’m curious as to whether they’d be confirmed by research or not. It’s a shame I’m not a social scientist or I’d do it myself!


sciencegeekgirl August 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Fantastic geekology, Ben. Looks like I’m “gravity”. Makes sense. They asked, “Do you consider yourself important?” and I had to say… “In everyday life, yes… but when it ultimately comes down to it, no. “

Laura August 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

Hey just found your blog through the CFI website. I thought this post was very interesting and I just updated my blog with my little personal response to it.

By the way, I love your blog in general. I studied education (but decided not too teach) and I’m a total geek. And a skeptic. So you have merged many of my interests into one blog. Thanks!

sciencegeekgirl August 28, 2008 at 8:40 am

I’m glad you liked my post, Laura, and I find it interesting that both you and ScienceGrrl (who wrote the original post that I was blogging about) have very similar scores on those two traits, whereas for me my scores were flipped — high neuroticism, average openness (which makes me just that wee bit self-conscious, admittedly). It could indicate different reasons for blogging, or simply noisy data. When I took Psychology of Personality ages ago, I remember my professor said that the one thing that personality research has shown consistently is that personality varies by situation. In other words, that there is really no such thing as stable personality traits. It’s all context-dependent. So, I always do wonder about these quizzes and their validity. If you took the quiz while sitting on a beach, versus at work, would your results be different?

Laura August 28, 2008 at 9:35 am

You know, those terms they used on the test seem to have different meanings to the test makers. Like “consciousness” wasn’t measuring what I thought, like how aware we are of situations going on around us or like social-consciousness, but rather our impulse control. The word Neurotic according to their test doesn’t have the same connotation as it does outside the realm of their test. So don’t feel self-conscious about it! Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t score higher. Which probably means the test was off.

I LOVE your points about personality traits being fluid and time/location dependent. I think this is something I try to address on my blog. I used to take on a label or trait and hold onto it as personal truth, but in actuality, I am a constantly changing person. One day I’m really extroverted and another day I want to hibernate. Just depends on so many factors like diet, the amount of sleep I’m getting, supported by a social network, etc.

I think quizzes like these are fun and can be used as a tool to learn something about yourself, but also shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Man I really want to test out your theory and go to a beach and take the same test.

(cross posted mine too: http://www.laurawithoutlabels.com/2008/08/open-and-neurotic-blogger.html)

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