Researchers are using phone movements to determine people’s personality types – so where do you fit?

By Emily Pidgeon


Posted on July 25, 2019

Researchers at RMIT University are using phone movements to determine personality traits, from people using their phone sporadically or hardly interacting with the device.

Scientists correlated data collected by mobile phone accelerometers, which are the sensors used to track phone movement (like daily steps), to predict personalities.

Different physical activity movements are thought to have strong correlations with particular human traits. RMIT scientists analysed the dispersion, diversity and regularity of movement.

“Activity like how quickly or how far we walk, or when we pick up our phones during the night, often follows patterns and these patterns say a lot about our personality type,” RMIT University computer scientist Associate Professor Flora Salim says.

The study found people with consistent movement on weekday evenings were more introverted, however extroverts showcased random, unplanned patterns.

When comparing phone calls, researchers found inventive and curious people made and received fewer calls, and friendly and compassionate females made the most outgoing calls.

Sensitive or neurotic women were found to regularly check their phones and move their devices well into the night, but sensitive or neurotic men did the opposite.

Organised people didn’t tend to contact the same person regularly in a short period of time while the busiest people were seen as having agreeable personality traits and had random activity on weekends and weekday evenings.

“Many of our habits and behaviours are unconscious but, when analysed, they tell us a lot about who we really are so we can understand ourselves better, resist social pressure to conform and to empathise with others,” RMIT University PhD student Nan Gao says. “In Ancient Greece there is a saying about knowing yourself as the beginning of wisdom, applications like this can really help to reveal who we are to ourselves.”

Personality types were previously predicted by tracking phone call and messaging activity logs, but scientists believe using the phone accelerometers improves accuracy.

Results were analysed against the Big Five personality traits; extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

The study, which was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage project, assessed US university volunteers. The theory is expected to be further tested on Australian participants.