Your spending habits are related to your personality traits. This is not news for social media giants or companies like Apple and Google. These companies often know where you are, who you are texting, emailing and what you are buying. What’s even scarier is that they probably have a very good picture of who you are as a person. Think about how much data you have online about yourself. Your Facebook, Twitter profile, music that you buy, Amazon purchases, and things you search for online. We share about ourselves more than meets the eye.
According to recent research, scientists can assess personality traits based only on our shopping habits. Scientists from University College London wanted to know if purchasing trends are enough to have a better look into someone’s personality. Together with researchers from Columbia University, they decided to use spending records from more than 2,000 British consumers who agreed to have their spending data tracked through an app on their phones. Participants also agreed to complete a personality test.
The spending habits were grouped into 279 categories including payments at furniture stores, coffee shops, supermarkets, and insurance policies. To ensure that wealthier participants don’t skew the final results, the researchers used relative spending data instead of raw amounts, meaning two different participants might spend two different amounts on groceries but here the scientists were more interested in the percentage of grocery shopping when compared to their overall spending for one month.
Once they had spending data available, researchers tried to analyze and predict each participant’s personality traits. To asses personality traits, a group of researchers used the Big Five model which is a widely accepted personality model of the following categories:
- Openness – open to new experiences versus uncreative and conservative.
- Conscientiousness – self-disciplined versus disorganized and confused.
- Extroversion – enthusiastic versus quiet.
- Agreeableness – warm and sympathetic versus argumentative and critical.
- Neuroticism – easily upset versus emotionally stable.
Additionally, the researchers designed a survey to measure self-control and materialism which are closely related to our spending habits.
Their assessment of personality traits based on purchasing trends was not as accurate as models which use Facebook likes and social media updates and photos. However, it was comparable with the results based on music preferences. The predictions were the most accurate for spending related traits such as self-control and materialism.
According to results, people who tend to spend more on drinking and dining are probably more extroverted when compared to those who don’t spend as much on social activities. Those who gave money to charities were more likely to be agreeable. Those who were more likely to save their money had a higher level of self-control and they were more conscientious. Also, those who spend less on mortgage payments were more likely to have higher results on the neuroticism trait.