The Big 5 Experiment on Twitter usage


The Big 5 experiment on Twitter usage investigates what someone’s Twitter 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 Twitter application that asks 40 simple questions to determine your personality profile. Shortly after completing the questionnaire, our application will gather data about your Twitter activity, e.g. the number and frequency of Tweets you post in a week or the number of followers you have. The purpose of this is to investigate what (if any) links there are between Twitter activity and someone’s personality.

Please help us with this research, by clicking on the image below and launching the Big 5 experiment Twitter 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 Twitter application


How does this differ from the Facebook Big 5 experiment we conducted in 2011?

The first difference is that we’re looking at Twitter which is generally more public than Facebook.

In this experiment we’re looking deeper into certain personality traits.  We’re still looking at the Big 5 dimensions, but using the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) developed by Professor Sam Gosling et al the University of Texas.

We’re also looking at a subset of the personality traits, including Psychopathy, Narcissism and Machiavellianisn, often referred to as ‘the Dark Triad’. This uses a scale developed by Professor Delroy Paulhus at the University of British Columbia in Canada. While we provide feedback on these traits (e.g. how much you might enjoy the limelight, or your propensity for taking risks) these results are not a replacement for a professional psychological examination and should not be treated as such. If your results are not what you expected please note that there is a potential for error in all psychological self assessment tests.


Many organisations and individuals around the globe are attempting to process the personal information we leave about ourselves on social networking sites – for all sorts of reasons, which may be good or bad for those being observed. Through this experiment and our Facebook Big 5 experiment, we want everyday people to be a one step ahead. The OPF wants to empower people 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 Twitter activity and personality types. While research from Cambridge University suggests there is some link, there have been very few studies based on Twitter. Researchers have preferred to examine Facebook. When we talk about Twitter activity, we mean things like the following:

We therefore need volunteers to complete the Big 5 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 that indicates their levels of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Psychopathy, Narcissism and Machiavellianism.

During or shortly after completing the questionnaire, the application will pick out data from your public Twitter stream. The information collected will only be used in statistical analysis to see whether it’s possible to determine personality traits from Twitter 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). We do NOT look at individual results.  The focus will be on highlighting the risks and the choices people have to manage the information they leave open to others on social network sites. We’ll aim for an ‘easy to get it’ format and see what we can do to get the final public report some media coverage and exposure on the web.


How do we protect your data?

Your personally identifiable  information will not be published, it will not be shared with 3rd parties and it will not be sold. Your test answers are encrypted on our server and will be regularly transferred (encrypted) to an offline server for processing.  After a period of no longer than 12 months all data will be deleted.

You can read more about how we protect your data here in our Privacy Policy.


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.

If the ‘darker’ side of personality interests you specifically,  you may well be interested in the following book (UK & US versions listed) by Jon Ronson.




(1)Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B., Jr. (2003). A Very Brief Measure of the Big Five Personality Domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504-528

(2) Paulhus, D.L., & Jones, D.N. (2011, January). Introducing a short measure of the Dark Triad. Poster presented at the meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, San Antonio .

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