Do personality traits influence the level of participation in communities?

(Sarah Hawk) #1

I’ve just been reading a really interesting paper (which coincidentally happens to be written by a couple of kiwis):

Who’s Contributing: Do Personality Traits Influence the Level and Type of Participation in Online Communities

…it is suggested that personality traits could therefore influence the type and level of participation within online communities.

In the absence of research specifically addressing this question, this study set out to seek answers to the following questions.

  • Do personality traits influence how an individual participates in online community?
  • Are certain personality traits indicative of particular behaviours within online community?
  • If personality does influence how individuals behave online, are the relatively small number of individuals who are participating dominated by a particular personality trait?


The findings showed that no one personality type was predominant amongst participants, but that motivations for participating varied according to personality type, and that individuals high in certain personality traits (such as neuroticism) are less likely to actively participate in much of the online activity of the community.

The research was based around the NEO-FFI 5 factor personality test. Here is a simplified online version of that test.

Some conclusions that can be drawn are:
Agreeableness – Individuals high in this trait will spend less time on the internet, but are more accepting of new technology. This could be seen as contradictory, however, perceived usefulness does not equate to high use.
Conscientiousness – Individuals high in this trait will spend less time on the internet for ‘unproductive’ or leisure pursuits, but given that they are also more accepting of new technology if they conclude that a specific online activity is productive to their work/study it will be more readily perceived as useful and therefore they will contribute to the level of use.

ƒExtraversion – Individuals high in this trait will spend less time on the internet, but when they do, and when they contribute to online communities, are motivated to voice an opinion and are willing to share information. Less time is spent seeking social spaces online, but their presence in virtual teams encourages a high level of interaction.
Extraverts are also more likely to perceive sender likeability as positive.
Neuroticism – Individuals high in this trait will spend less time online in general, but when online, are more likely to use the internet to find a sense of belonging: women in particular are more likely to spend time on discussion boards and chat rooms but are less likely to play online games and exchange information. They are less likely to perceive the usefulness of new technology and are more likely to perceive sender likeability negatively.
Openness – Individuals high in this trait more likely to be online in general.

The article goes on the explain known behaviours and enablers to participation for each type, but my summary post here is already too long. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the paper.

(Richard Millington) #2

I remember having this discussion with Nathalie after our event in February.

Are personality traits or personal values are more predictive of whether someone will participate in a community (and how they will participate).

Personality traits are pattens of behavior, thought, and emotion.

Personal values are broad life goals and guide perception, judgements, and behavior.

Or to oversimplify, personality traits are who we are and personal values are who we want to be. There are strong relationships between the two.

My belief is personal traits are probably predictive of how we might react to information in the community, but personal values are probably more predictive about whether someone will participate in the first place.

The latter for the simple reason that many people might be introverted, for example, but they might want to be extroverted and participate in communities for that reason.

No data here mind. Maybe we should look this up @JoeNarusis.

(Sarah Hawk) #3

The study digs pretty deeply into motivations (they call them enablers) as well as just the personality traits. It’s a good read.

(Richard Millington) #4

Just wanted to copy in @Michael_Britt here. He’s more of an expert and I. I’d be curious to get his take.

(Alessio Fattorini) #5

I think that what influence most the level of participation is a shared culture which makes the community safe, supportive and friendly. Followed by a well thought engagement and content strategy.
I have to admit that culture also depends on personality traits of most active members (and community team)

(Michael Britt) #6

The article looks interesting and at least it sticks to the 5 personality traits that we can have any confidence in (instead of those Myers-Briggs traits like “thinking-sensing” and the like which are far too general).

But my thinking is that your personality trait could influence HOW you participate, while your values will more likely determine WHETHER you participate. For example, after making the decision to participate, an extrovert will probably write longer posts while introverts write shorter ones. Those high in Openness to Experience might be more likely to include pictures in their posts.

But as for WHETHER you participate: I think that comes down to utility. Do you expect to get anything out of the post? Will your question get answered? Will the time taken to write the post be worth it in terms of you getting something back that you value. So rather than looking so much at personality types, I think Expectancy Theory would be more helpful:

And I’ve probably gone on too long…which must mean I’m an extrovert…and I better include some kind of picture to prove I’m Open to Experience :wink:

Here’s an emoji that looks a little like my cat:

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Heh, that made me smile.
I challenge you to find emojis that look like your other two cats.

(Michael Britt) #8

:cat: :leopard: Best I could do. We also have a black cat and a Mancoon. :smile: