Scientists have identified four personality types based on a new method that examined data sets representing 1.5 million people.
The study, by researchers at at Northwestern University in Illinois, found four distinct personality types: reserved, role models, average and self-centered. It was published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
The study puts a scientific weight behind the controversial topic of personality.
"People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates' time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense," co-author William Revelle, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, said in a news release. "Now, these data show there are higher densities of certain personality types."
To determine the four personality types, the study plotted five widely accepted personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The study also found that personality types tend to shift over time, with older people tending to be less neurotic and more conscientious and agreeable than younger people.
The scientists used a machine learning algorithm to identify the personality types and worked with Northwestern psychologist William Revelle, who was skeptical about the idea of personality types, to refine their results, The Washington Post noted.
“What is unique about the current study is their choice of the Big Five trait domains as a starting point rather than some theoretical types that sprang from the imagination of the theorist,” John A. Johnson, a Pennsylvania State University psychologist, said, according to the Post.
The study paves the way for further research.
“I think this is an extremely impressive study,” Richard Robins, a social psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said, according to Science Magazine. “The field was plagued by relatively small samples and the use of different methods and data sets. We needed somebody to come along and clean things up.”
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