Are we the same online? The expression of the five factor personality traits on the computer and the Internet


The article distinguishes between different perspectives of contemporary research on personality and Internet usage. An open question concerns how personality is expressed on the Internet. Although some authors postulate a structural change of personality on the Internet, the precondition of cross-situational consistency rather speaks for just a different, situation-dependent expression of personality on the Internet. This study provides an initial empirical approach to the question of whether the five factor personality traits – exemplary for the whole personality of a person – express differently on the computer and on the Internet. Therefore, the five factors of 122 student participants were measured by the NEO-FFI. In a second step, the same subjects completed a modified version of the NEO-FFI, in which all items refer to computer-mediated communication. Results indicate that with regard to four of the five factors, the absolute influence of personality on behavior and experience decreases in favor of situational impact. In the case of neuroticism, a different effect occurred. On the computer and the Internet participants report higher emotional stability than in the offline world.

big five; five factors; computer-mediated communication; person-situation controversy; cross-situational consistency
Author biographies

Tim Blumer

Author photo Tim Blumer is a PhD candidate at Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany. His research interests focus on media psychology, advertising psychology, and consumer psychology. He has been working as a lecturer at Berlin University of the Arts for several years.

Nicola Döring

Author photo Nicola Döring is head of the research group on media psychology and media design at Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany. Her research interests include the psychology and design of online, mobile and human robot communication, learning and teaching with new media, gender and sexuality issues related to media and technology. She also teaches courses on and writes about social scientific research methods and evaluation.

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