Scientists Can Predict Your Personality From How You Move Your Smartphone

A team of researchers has used technology commonly built into smartphones to help predict people's personality types.

The scientists from RMIT University, Australia, collected data from devices known as accelerometers that detect motion in three dimensions. These are used by numerous applications ranging from motion-sensing games to health apps that track how many steps a user has taken in a day.

Previously, scientists have been able to predict the personality types of phone users by looking at the frequency and length of phone calls that they make, or their messaging behavior. But accelerometer data can make these kinds of predictions even more accurate.

This is because research has shown that people with different personality types often exhibit recognizable patterns of behavior when it comes to physical activity.

"Activity like how quickly or how far we walk, or when we pick up our phones up during the night, often follows patterns and these patterns say a lot about our personality type," Flora Salim, an author of the study, said in a statement.

For the study, the team explored the issue by looking at the so-called Big Five personality types: extroversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

The team found that people who displayed regular patterns of movement in the evenings on weekdays tended to be more introverted, while those who demonstrated more random patterns of movement were more extroverted.

This could be explained by the fact that extroverts may meet up with different groups of people in the evenings or they are more open to unexpected plans.

People who displayed more random patterns of activity and were busier on weekends and weekday evenings tended to be more agreeable—meaning they are friendly and compassionate.

Meanwhile, females who scored higher on neuroticism—i.e. they are more nervous and sensitive—tended to regularly move with their phones into the early hours of the morning.

The researchers say that the results of this research could have several implications.

"There are applications for this technology in social media with friend recommendations, online dating matches and targeted advertising, but I think the most exciting part is what we can learn about ourselves," Nan Gao, lead author of the study from RMIT, said in a statement.

"Many of our habits and behaviors are unconscious but, when analyzed, they tell us a lot about who we really are so we can understand ourselves better, resist social pressure to conform and to empathize with others," he said.

A smartphone plugged into a battery charger on March 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images