The Big 5 Experiment (Archived)


“The Big 5 Personality Experiment” investigates what someone’s Facebook activity could say about their personality (especially, to those who might be looking but without asking), and aims to answer the question of whether it’s possible to alter how you appear to others?

We created a Facebook application that asks 45 simple questions to determine your personality profile.  Shortly after completing the questionnaire, our application will gather data about your Facebook activity, e.g. the number of photos you post in a week or the number of friends you have.  The purpose of this is to investigate what (if any) links there are between Facebook activity and someone’s personality.

Please help us with this research, by clicking on the image below and adding the ‘Big Five Personality Experiment” facebook application. Read more about the experiment below, or find out more about us by exploring the links above.

The Big Five Experiment Logo

Click this image to launch the Big Five Experiment Facebook application


Many organisations around the globe are attempting to screen people in this way for all sorts of reasons – and many more could try it.  Through this experiment, we want people to have the power to make informed choices about how they use social networking sites.

The benefits of social networking sites are being discovered at an immense pace, but how much do we really know about the risks and how to deal with them?

How are we planning to do this?

First we need to determine whether there’s a link between Facebook activity and personality types. When we talk about Facebook activity, we mean things like the following:

We therefore need volunteers to complete the ‘Big 5 Personality Experiment’ questionnaire.   This is a legitimate personality questionnaire and one which you can read more about here.  People who participate in the experiment will receive valid result which indicates their levels of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

During or shortly after completing the questionnaire, the application will pick out data from your Facebook profile, wall posts and photos. The information collected will be used in statistical analysis to see whether it’s possible to determine personality traits from Facebook activity. You can read more about how we protect your data at the bottom of this page.

We are aiming to have a sample size of between 350-400 contributors. Check out the blog for how we are getting along (we may need your help in getting more recruits!).

When we are nicely in the sample size target zone, we’ll process the overall results and release a public report on the overall findings (with no identities revealed). The focus will be on highlighting the risks and the choices people have to manage the image they portray to others on social network sites. We’ll aim for an ‘easy to get it’ format and see what we can do to get this public report some media coverage and exposure on the web.

Follow on activities

Assuming that there is a link, we plan to release a second application that can examine a Facebook profile, tell you what it thinks your personality is and suggest ways that you can tweak your profile to change how outsiders might view your profile (should you wish).

How do we protect your data?

Your information will not be published, it will not be shared with 3rd parties and it will not be sold. Data will be regularly transferred to an offline server and after a period of no longer than 9 months all data will be deleted.

You can read more about how we protect your data here.

Further Reading

In some countries, companies are actively screening existing and potential employees based on their online social network updates and profiles.  These three articles explain more:

Ever heard of the term “Cyber Vetting”?  If you haven’t, take a look at this description in Wikipedia.



(1) John, O. P., Naumann, L. P., & Soto, C. J. (2008). Paradigm Shift to the Integrative Big-Five Trait Taxonomy: History, Measurement, and Conceptual Issues. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 114-158). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

(2) John, O. P., Donahue, E. M., & Kentle, R. L. (1991). The Big Five Inventory–Versions 4a and 54. Berkeley, CA: University of California,Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social Research.

(3) Benet-Martinez, V., & John, O. P. (1998).  Los Cinco Grandes across cultures and ethnic groups: Multitrait multimethod analyses of the Big Five in Spanish and English.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 729-750.

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