Are You in Charge?

Did you know your smartphone can predict your personality traits? The next time you’re too impatient to unplug your phone as it charges, spare a few seconds to ponder about what that speaks of your personality.

In a study conducted at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany, the authors showed that various personality traits can be predicted by the usage of smartphones. They studied various factors of smartphone use such as app usage, music consumption, communication behaviour, daytime vs nighttime usage etc and showed that some of these show a correlation with the personality traits based on the Big Five personality test: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. They made some interesting observations such as how camera use, lesser interest in sports apps and more nighttime calls indicated openness in behaviour. Further, the mean charge of the phone when unplugged from a charging cable could indicate a sense of duty and a love for order.

The study shows how actions that we assume are irrelevant can actually be predictors of important personality traits. Monitoring smartphone use with respect to personality can be especially beneficial for personalized ads where the datasets from individuals are maintained to aid in online marketing of products and services based on their preferences. They could also be used to select those with certain preferable personality traits for certain job profiles for example. However, it is quite evident that collecting data in this manner can have huge ethical and legal implications and can lead to obvious biases as well. In addition, it may even be used to affect far more important aspects such as voting behaviours during elections. 

As we enter into a world that requires us to be quite tech-savvy for basic daily functions, the importance of considering all the associated aspects becomes quite evident. While it definitely makes life easier in many ways, it does swerve into murky territories and can spiral into lack of control over personal information and how it is used and who has access to it. 

So, when you unplug your smartphone too soon, remember the charge on the phone is indicating a whole lot more about you.

Source: Stachl, Clemens et al. “Predicting personality from patterns of behavior collected with smartphones.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 117,30 (2020): 17680-17687. doi:10.1073/pnas.1920484117

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