Machine Learning

, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp 357–380 | Cite as

Manifestations of user personality in website choice and behaviour on online social networks

  • Michal Kosinski
  • Yoram Bachrach
  • Pushmeet Kohli
  • David Stillwell
  • Thore Graepel


Individual differences in personality affect users’ online activities as much as they do in the offline world. This work, based on a sample of over a third of a million users, examines how users’ behaviour in the online environment, captured by their website choices and Facebook profile features, relates to their personality, as measured by the standard Five Factor Model personality questionnaire. Results show that there are psychologically meaningful links between users’ personalities, their website preferences and Facebook profile features. We show how website audiences differ in terms of their personality, present the relationships between personality and Facebook profile features, and show how an individual’s personality can be predicted from Facebook profile features. We conclude that predicting a user’s personality profile can be applied to personalize content, optimize search results, and improve online advertising.


Personality Individual differences Social networks Facebook Personalization Web search Online advertising Machine learning 


  1. Allport, G. W. (1962). The general and the unique in psychological science. Journal of Personality, 30, 405–422. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Vinitzky, G. (2010). Social network use and personality. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(6), 1289–1295. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bachrach, Y., Kosinski, M., Graepel, T., Kohli, P., & Stillwell, D. (2012). Personality and patterns of facebook usage. In Proceedings of the ACM web science conference. Google Scholar
  4. Back, M. D., Schmukle, S. C., & Egloff, B. (2008). How extraverted is Inferring personality from e-mail addresses. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 1116–1122. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Back, M. D., Stopfer, J. M., Vazire, S., Gaddis, S., Schmukle, S. C., Egloff, B., & Gosling, S. D. (2010). Facebook profiles reflect actual personality, not self-idealization. Psychological Science, 21(3), 372. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baglioni, M., Ferrara, U., Romei, A., Ruggieri, S., & Turini, F. (2003). Preprocessing and mining web log data for web personalization. In Proceedings of the congress of the Italian association for artificial intelligence. Google Scholar
  7. Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44(1), 1–26. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bennett, P. N., Svore, K., & Dumais, S. T. (2010). Classification-enhanced ranking. In International world wide web conference. Google Scholar
  9. Bishop, C. M., & SpringerLink (Service en ligne) (2006). Pattern recognition and machine learning (Vol. 4). New York: Springer. Google Scholar
  10. Burnham, K. P., & Anderson, D. R. (2002). Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Berlin: Springer. MATHGoogle Scholar
  11. Byrne, D., Griffitt, W., & Stefaniak, D. (1967). Attraction and similarity of personality characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(1), 82. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the web? The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247–253. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Costa, P. T. Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Neo personality inventory–revised (neo-pi-r) and neo five-factor inventory (neo-ffi) professional manual. In Psychological assessment resources, Odessa, FL. Google Scholar
  14. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (2006). Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO PI-R): manual. Boston: Hogrefe. Google Scholar
  15. De Bock, K., & Van Den Poel, D. (2010). Predicting website audience demographics for web advertising targeting using multi-website clickstream data. Fundamenta Informaticae, 98(1), 49–70. MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  16. Dwork, C. (2006). Differential privacy. In International colloquium on automata, languages and programming. Google Scholar
  17. Evans, D. C., Gosling, S. D., & Carroll, A. (2008). What elements of an online social networking profile predict target-rater agreement in personality impressions. In Proceedings of the international conference on weblogs and social media (pp. 1–6). Google Scholar
  18. Finder, A. (2006). For some, online persona undermines a résumé. New York Times, 11. Google Scholar
  19. Gill, A. J., Oberlander, J., & Austin, E. (2006). The perception of e-mail personality at zero-acquaintance. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 497–507. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Golbeck, J., Robles, C., & Turner, K. (2011). Predicting personality with social media. In ACM SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 253–262). Google Scholar
  21. Goldberg, L. R. (1993). The structure of phenotypic personality traits. The American Psychologist, 48(1), 26. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goldberg, L. R. (1999). A broad-bandwidth, public domain, personality inventory measuring the lower-level facets of several five-factor models. Personality Psychology in Europe, 7, 7–28. Google Scholar
  23. Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, C. R., & Gough, H. G. (2006). The international personality item pool and the future of public-domain personality measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(1), 84–96. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gosling, S. D., Ko, S., Mannarelli, T., & Morris, M. E. (2002). A room with a cue: personality judgments based on offices and bedrooms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(3), 379–398. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gosling, S. D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about Internet questionnaires. The American Psychologist, 59(2), 93–104. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gosling, S. D., Augustine, A. A., Vazire, S., Holtzman, N., & Gaddis, S. (2011). Manifestations of personality in online social networks: Self-reported facebook-related behaviors and observable profile information. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(9), 483–488. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0087. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not weird. Nature, 466(7302), 29. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holmes, G., Donkin, A., & Witten, I. H. (1994). Weka: a machine learning workbench. In Proceedings of the 1994 second Australian and New Zealand conference on intelligent information systems, 1994 (pp. 357–361). New York: IEEE Press. Google Scholar
  29. Holmes, G., Hall, M., & Prank, E. (1999). Generating rule sets from model trees. Berlin: Springer. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hu, J., Zeng, H.-J., Li, H., Niu, C., & Chen, Z. (2007). Demographic prediction based on user’s browsing behavior. In The world wide web conference (pp. 151–160). Google Scholar
  31. John, O. P., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2000). Measurement, scale construction, and reliability. In H. T. Reis & C. M. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 339–369). New York: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  32. Judge, T. A., Higgins, C. A., Thoresen, C. J., & Barrick, M. R. (1999). The big five personality traits, general mental ability, and career success across the life span. Personnel Psychology, 52(3), 621–652. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelly, E. L., & Conley, J. J. (1987). Personality and compatibility: a prospective analysis of marital stability and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 27. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Khan, I. A., Brinkman, W.-P., Fine, N., & Hierons, R. M. (2008). Measuring personality from keyboard and mouse use. In Proceedings of the 15th European conference on cognitive ergonomics: the ergonomics of cool interaction. Google Scholar
  35. Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., Kohli, P., Bachrach, Y., & Graepel, T. (2012). Personality and website choice. In Proceedings of the ACM web science conference. Google Scholar
  36. Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Google Scholar
  37. Marcus, B., Machilek, F., & Schütz, A. (2006). Personality in cyberspace: personal web sites as media for personality expressions and impressions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(6), 1014–1031. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Murray, D., & Durrell, K. (1999). Inferring demographics attributes of anonymous Internet users. In ACM SIGKDD conference on knowledge discovery and data mining. Google Scholar
  39. Netscape Communication Corporation (2013). Open directory project.
  40. Orzeck, T., & Lung, E. (2005). Big-five personality differences of cheaters and non-cheaters. Current Psychology, 24, 274–287. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 401–421. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Quercia, D., Lambiotte, R., Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Crowcroft, J. (2012). The personality of popular facebook users. In Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on computer supported cooperative work. Google Scholar
  43. Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2006). Message in a ballad the role of music preferences in interpersonal perception. Psychological Science, 17(3), 236–242. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roberts, B. W., Chernyshenko, O. S., Stark, S., & Goldberg, L. R. (2005). The structure of conscientiousness: an empirical investigation based on seven major personality questionnaires. Personnel Psychology, 58(1), 103–139. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ross, C., Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Arseneault, J. M., Simmering, M. G., & Orr, R. R. (2009). Personality and motivations associated with facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(2), 578–586. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Russell, M. T., Karol, D. L., & Institute for Personality, and Ability Testing (1994). The 16PF fifth edition administrator’s manual. Champaign: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing. Google Scholar
  47. Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who uses facebook? an investigation into the relationship between the big five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and facebook usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1658–1664. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.004. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tett, R. P., Jackson, D. N., & Rothstein, M. (1991). Personality measures as predictors of job performance: a meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 44(4), 703–742. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tupes, E. C., & Christal, R. E. (1992). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 225–251. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vazire, S., & Gosling, S. D. (2004). E-perceptions: personality impressions based on personal websites. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 123–132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weber, I., & Castillo, C. (2010). The demographics of web search. In ACM SIGIR special interest group on information retrieval. Google Scholar
  52. Weber, I., & Jaimes, A. (2011). Who uses web search for what: and how. In International conference on web search and data mining (pp. 15–24). Google Scholar
  53. Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on facebook: digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 1816–1836. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhong, B., Hardin, M., & Sun, T. (2011). Less effortful thinking leads to more social networking? the associations between the use of social network sites and personality traits. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(3), 1265–1271. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.01.008. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal Kosinski
    • 1
  • Yoram Bachrach
    • 2
  • Pushmeet Kohli
    • 2
  • David Stillwell
    • 1
  • Thore Graepel
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychometrics CentreUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Microsoft ResearchRedmondUSA

Personalised recommendations