social sciences

Let’s Hypothesize: Facebook and Envy

For my bachelor thesis, I looked at the relationship between envy, Facebook use, and maximizing. My research was carried out using convenience sampling on a small sample, so while the results were significant, the question is whether these are externally valid. Therefore, this post will be more of a speculation.

In this study, we asked participants to fill out a questionnaire that assessed their Facebook use, envy, and maximization. Questions on the Facebook use scale looked at constructs such as time spent on the social media platform. Envy measured how likely people are to feel desire towards others’ possessions or life experiences. And lastly, the maximization questionnaire measured whether people tend to chase the ‘best’ in their lives. People who score high on this trait tend to always strive for the best possible outcome. This means, for instance, that when they are watching TV and they are already watching a TV show that they like, they will still flip through the other channels to make sure that they are watching the best possible show on TV at the moment. You can imagine that these individuals have a hard time making decisions as well, as they are always on the lookout for something better. This trait can influence relationships, shopping habits, or life satisfaction.

The underlying idea was that those who score high on maximization tend to be more envious of others. Seeing someone else with a better alternative than you do, would then elicit feelings of envy.
Facebook is a virtual space where a lot of social information is shared. This social media platform seems to have a positivity bias, especially before the introduction of the ‘react buttons’. In the past, users were only able to ‘like’ posts. Users can also filter content and decide what they would like to share on Facebook. Thus, users can actively engage in impression management and share information that they want to show publicly. This means that Facebook users might be more likely to post positive information regarding themselves.

Therefore, scrolling down the Facebook timeline, you will be exposed to social information that will be interpreted as positive by most. These can be posts related to successful life events, such as promotions, vacations, weddings, or academic achievements. And of course, you could argue that any of these milestones can elicit envy in any type of person, regardless of whether they score high on maximization or not. However, those who do score high on this trait might feel more envious than others. The problem is, that too much envy, in this case, might lead to stress, life dissatisfaction, or even depression. Because there is a high chance that there will always be someone on your timeline who performed better than you did in any of these categories.

What makes it worse is that maximizers are always on the lookout for information regarding the best possible option. Thus, one could reason that it might be difficult for them to stop using such social media platforms. As the social information that can be found on sites such as Facebook can give them insight into how they are doing themselves. Therefore, the existence of social media has made it almost effortless for these individuals to engage in social comparison. So, if this does lead to depression or a decrease in life satisfaction, it might be a good idea to spend less time on such social platforms.

Image source.

social media

The benefits of using Facebook

There seems to be an ongoing trend of people looking for the downsides of Facebook. Researchers seem to want to uncover the negative effects social media sites could have on our mental health. Which, of course, makes sense in a postmodern reflexive society where people engage in risk aversion. Any new type of technology is scrutinized to make sure it won’t cause any ‘avoidable’ harm. However, there have been researchers that looked at the benefits of Facebook use in different settings.

Facebook is a social environment in which its users can interact with one another. In such a setting, social capital can be accumulated, which is important in everyday life. Social capital is the resources that one can attain through relationships and interactions with others. Researchers sent out a survey to college students to find out whether Facebook can aid in acquiring social capital. They found that students maintained and formed new social capital through Facebook. Interestingly, these college students were able to stay in contact with old high school students using this social media website. These friendships, in turn, are of importance when it comes to attaining social capital, as these friends can provide more (social) information.¹

The more friends the better?
Other researchers looked at the amount of Facebook friends and the perceived social support of users. This hypothesis turned out to be supported by their data. This relationship between these two constructs was also associated with reduced stress and psychological well-being. The researchers speculate that a higher number of Facebook friends is a cue for people to assume that they are more connected with people, regardless of how strong these connections actually are. However, they also note that the number of Facebook friends can also be related to personality traits such as extraversion. This trait is also related to well-being. Therefore, the underlying mechanism for perceived social support could also be linked to personality traits or other factors.²

Being yourself
Staying closer to your authentic self on Facebook is associated with feeling more connected with other users. While straying away from your true self is linked to more stress. This is similar to findings from ‘real life’ settings where those who acted according to their true self in person also reported a better well-being.³
Different researchers found that Facebook can help users acquire online social support. This social support does not directly correlate with well-being, but the online support people get can help people take the step of looking for real-life support.4

1. Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication12(4), 1143-1168.

2. Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking16(10), 721-727.

3.  Grieve, R., & Watkinson, J. (2016). The psychological benefits of being authentic on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking19(7), 420-425.

4.Liu, C. Y., & Yu, C. P. (2013). Can Facebook use induce well-being?. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking16(9), 674-678.


Let’s Hypothesize: the internet, memes and ‘new’ words

Not only does the emergence of the internet create new terms, it also redefines existing words. The internet is a new place where people exchange information and engage in social contact. The setting of social media is quite different from the setting real life interactions. For instance, we’re able to edit and correct ourselves before posting something, however, in real life, once the words are out, we can’t take them back. We’re probably also interacting with a larger diversity of people than in real life. With this diversity, it is likely easier to create new creative content.

A very interesting part of this new creative content is memes. The term meme was coined long before people had an internet connection at home. Initially, Dawkins used it as a way to describe pieces of cultural information that are passed on between people. Memes according to him, pass on the same way as genes do. Gestures, words or rituals are spread among people and are also subject to mutations. And if we think about memes in the internet sense, the aforementioned definition still holds. Words, pop culture, specific interests, daily life situations are often spread among users of internet communities in the form of imagery or texts.

When does something become a meme?
This is a very difficult question to answer, as internet users can get quite pious in what can be labeled a meme or not. However, I believe the same principles that determine whether something becomes a meme in real life, can also be applied to the internet setting. For instance, the word “gnarly” existed long before surfer culture popularized it in the 70s.
But what exactly makes up these principles is hard to spell out. I think if this was known, businesses would gladly use this to promote their products, to make money off of this process. Sure, there have been companies that successfully, intentionally and unintentionally, used this phenomenon for brand recognition (I have seen people use Snickers’ slogan: “eat a Snickers” in online interactions). But not all companies that invest money in ‘memeing’ will achieve ‘meme status’.
Though, not only companies can earn money through memes. People and animals have become internet sensations and earned money as well (e.g. Antoine Dodson, Grumpy Cat, Ken Bone). But why do some memes catch on, while others don’t? I’m assuming timing plays a large role in this. Some attempted memes achieve virality after a few years. For example, the movie The Room was released in 2003. The first meme-like imagery was spread in 2009, while in 2010 more content was created, which kickstarted the actual meme.

Memes as words and slang
Language-wise, what is interesting, is that new definitions for existing words are created. And that the use of certain words suddenly spikes in online interactions (and gradually make its way into real life interactions as well). I recall a time when the words “I’m bored” were plastered all over my Facebook timeline. The actual meaning behind these words in that setting is fascinating. As it wasn’t just a statement of one’s internal states. With this phrase, people looked for entertainment through social interactions.
Then we had a spike in “That awkward moment…“. The internet provided the opportunity for people to open up about embarrassment they go through in daily life. Things people might not discuss in everyday face-to-face conversations, because, well, they’re embarrassing. But being able to read that you are actually quite similar to your peers takes away some of that embarrassment. Besides, a quick Google search can easily lead you to stories of people who are going through similar situations, which probably makes people less alone and ‘weird’.
Now the word “relatable” seems to be a much-used form of expression to indicate you experience similar emotions or events in your life. What is important to mention with this word is that figurative speech is imperative online. For instance, people might find a picture of a dead fish lying on the shore to be ‘relatable’. Thus, images are used to figuratively or comically express feelings.
Other, more recent slang terms are “extra“, “lit“, “dead“, and “bruh“. Much of the credit of the emergence of these new words can be given to an important online community referred to as Black Twitter. This community not only sheds light on relevant (racial) issues, such as police brutality, members of the community are also responsible for a large part of the new creative content that can be identified as memes (and slang).

Memes do not only create new ways to express emotions and create bonds between individuals, it also influences the current zeitgeist and creates discussion among groups of people (e.g. Kony 2012, #icantbreathe).

social sciences

A new form of cheating: Online Infidelity

Before the existence of a new virtual world online, people had to look around in the ‘wild’ if they desired to be unfaithful. However, the internet has definitely created easier access to many different services. In many parts of the world, it is possible to order a variety of foods online, which will ultimately be delivered to our doorsteps. But Maslow’s Pyramid contains more needs and wants that we feel we require. Other needs can also be requested or bought online, affection, attention, or sex. One could argue that this also opens the doors to cheating, due to the availability.

Why do people use the internet to cheat?
Researchers have looked at online infidelity by examining it using the ACE model. ACE being anonymity, convenience, and escape. People can remain anonymous while using chat rooms or apps to look for potential affairs. It has become quite convenient to look for cheating partners. Right now, websites exist specifically for the purpose to find an illicit relationship. And last, several studies have found that people engaging in such activities experience their ‘escape‘ as some kind of “high”.1
Another important aspect of anonymity is that people can make themselves more desirable. Online users can spend more time thinking about their responses and how they want to represent themselves. And in terms of rationalizing ‘cheating behavior’, users often feel as if they are not actually cheating when talking to others online, even if when the conversation contains sexual undertones. Many people seem to draw the line at physical contact, only 17% regarded their behavior in chat rooms as infidelity.2

Who is cheating online?
Cheating can be defined in different terms: emotional vs. sexual cheating. In one study, sexual infidelity online as ‘hot chatting’ and cybersex. Emotional infidelity online as having formed a deep bond or fallen in love with someone else on the internet. Males were more likely than females to engage in sexual infidelity online. This was also found to be true for people who score high on extraversion. Those who score high on narcissism are more likely to be involved in emotional infidelity online.3

Cheating using social media?
Social media has made it easier to connect with others. Although sites exist specifically designed for the purpose of having affairs, social media seems to ‘fulfill’ this motivation as well. It seems that impulsivity predicts attempting to engage in cheating through social media.4
A study looked at Facebook use and jealousy among young adults. The researchers found that males experienced more jealousy when their romantic partner used the winking emoticon. Females were more jealous when their partners didn’t use any emoticons.5
60% of people have witnessed a relationship break-up caused by emotional infidelity on Facebook.6
Moreover, Facebook is used to look for romantic connections by people both single and in relationships.7

A new problem?
It seems as if we have established clear rules on what constitutes as cheating outside of the internet. But engaging in certain behaviors online tend to still fall in a gray area. As was pointed out by one of the participants in one of the cited studies: “there is nothing physical going on, so I’m not cheating on my spouse”. However, partners do get jealous when their significant other undertakes in romantic behaviors online.
Therefore it is only a matter of time before people establish clearer boundaries what entails as cheating in an online setting. It should also be noted that the internet doesn’t just cause relationship problems, it can also be a place for relationship formation.
1. Kimberly, S. Y., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (2000). Cybersex and infidelity online: Implications for evaluation and treatment. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7(10), 59-74.
2. Mileham, B. L. A. (2007). Online infidelity in Internet chat rooms: An ethnographic exploration. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 11-31.
3. Browne, A. (2015). Online Infidelity; Gender, narcissism and extraversion as predictors of behaviour and jealousy responses.
4. Adams, A. N. (2017). Social Networking Sites and Online Infidelity (Doctoral dissertation, Walden University).
5. Hudson, M. B., Nicolas, S. C., Howser, M. E., Lipsett, K. E., Robinson, I. W., Pope, L. J., … & Friedman, D. R. (2015). Examining how gender and emoticons influence Facebook jealousy. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(2), 87-92.
6. Nelson, O., & Salawu, A. (2017). Can my Wife be Virtual-Adulterous? An Experiential Study on Facebook, Emotional Infidelity and Self-Disclosure. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(2), 166.
7. Drouin, M., Miller, D. A., & Dibble, J. L. (2014). Ignore your partners’ current Facebook friends; beware the ones they add!. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 483-488.

social media

Social Media: fear of missing out

With the emergence of social media, new problems have surfaced. However, the question is whether these problems are substantial enough to consider. For instance, internet addiction can be considered a new issue, but addiction existed in other forms before the internet came to be. And since addiction has been tied to biological processes, these underlying mechanisms could make individuals more susceptible to (internet) addiction (Vink et al. 2015; Kühn and Gallinat, 2015; Zhang et al. 2015). But let’s focus on the social spaces in this virtual world, which created a new fear: the fear of missing out.

However since the fear of missing (FoMO) out is still a new concept in regards to online communication, I still find it quite broadly defined. It seems to be used mainly in regards to social networking sites, but you can imagine that this could also be used in terms of other online services, such as messaging applications. People share social information on sites such as Facebook and people might feel like missing out on such information when not regularly checking this site. Since all of these different services can be accessed through a smartphone, it has become difficult for people to not regularly check for new notifications. Different people have voiced their criticism on device use and often refer to a time when the internet wasn’t a ‘big thing’. But not having access to the internet is almost unthinkable in many parts of the world today. It is not just used to keep in touch with our family or friends, but government departments, schools, employers, etc. expect us to be able to use the internet. Lacking skills or access could ultimately result in digital exclusion.

Though the fear of missing out is also applicable in the offline world. People not being able to attend a ‘get together’ or not being invited to one could also elicit this fear. Przybylski et al (2013) created a FoMO scale to measure this construct for their study. Items included in the scale were:
“Sometimes, I wonder if I spend too much time keeping up with what is going on”.
“When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing”.
These same researchers found that especially young males are susceptible to FoMO. Those who score high on this construct are more likely to check their social media when waking up, during eating, and before going to sleep. Students high on FoMO were also more likely to engage in social media use during lectures. And lastly, high scoring FoMO individuals tend to use their smartphone while driving.

Dossey (2014) wrote an interesting article about the practicalities of FoMO. For instance, he discusses a new term coined by South Korean doctors, digital dementia. In this new “dementia” people’s right side of the brain become underdeveloped, while the left side is overdeveloped. Symptoms tied to this phenomenon affect memory and attention span, and impulse control.

Here I want to postulate that there could be underlying biological mechanisms at work in regards to online behaviors. There have been studies in such settings, for instance, Sherman et al. (2016) found increased activity in neural pathways (using fMRI) when adolescents were exposed to pictures with many ‘likes’. This activity is related to reward systems.
The feel-good hormones in those reward systems stimulate us to carry out certain behaviors. If we have been enforced to do something that releases such hormones, we are very likely to keep repeating them. That is why we engage in certain behaviors, such as eating delicious food, having sex, and check our phone. And if seeing a notification pop up on our smartphone screens can elicit such strong feelings, it is only natural for us to feel so attached to our phones.

Dossey, L. (2014). FOMO, Digital Dementia, and Our Dangerous Experiment

Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2015). Brains online: structural and functional correlates of habitual Internet use. Addiction biology, 20(2), 415-422.

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841-1848.

Sherman, L. E., Payton, A. A., Hernandez, L. M., Greenfield, P. M., & Dapretto, M. (2016). The power of the like in adolescence: Effects of peer influence on neural and behavioral responses to social media. Psychological science, 27(7), 1027-1035.

Vink, J. M., Beijsterveldt, T. C., Huppertz, C., Bartels, M., & Boomsma, D. I. (2015). Heritability of compulsive Internet use in adolescents. Addiction biology.

Zhang, J. T., Yao, Y. W., Li, C. S. R., Zang, Y. F., Shen, Z. J., Liu, L., … & Fang, X. Y. (2015). Altered resting‐state functional connectivity of the insula in young adults with Internet gaming disorder. Addiction biology.

social media

Facebook and mental health

Facebook has been available to the general public since 2006. Since this time there have been many studies on the effects of Facebook on individual’s mental states. There have also been studies on how personality traits can influence internet use. Facebook is a new environment where people can socialize, this space, which is considerably different from face-to-face communication, can have disparate implications.

One of the major arguments people use when criticizing social media is the idea that it might replace real life interactions. However, this concern seems to be ungrounded, as the opposite is more likely to be true. People still engage in face-to-face interactions, and on top of that communicate through the use of an internet connection. Thus the amount spent socializing has actually increased.
Another issue which is often discussed is that Facebook does not mimic a setting close to real life interaction. Which, at face value, is very likely to be true. First of all, the average amount of Facebook friends is 150. This is not just an arbitrary number, this is referred to as the Dunbar number. Based on our cognitive capacities humans are limited to maintaining this number of relationships.
Third, the content that is shared and posted doesn’t always match the discussed content in real life. For instance, people seem to be more likely to share their positive milestones and experiences. Entering such a space, from a hypothetical standpoint, could affect your mental state. People might start to feel like negative emotions or occurrences are unusual, and from this they will infer that something is wrong with them.

Moreno et al. (2011) looked at depressive symptoms displayed on Facebook profiles of college students. In order to identify these symptoms, they used the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is a book used by many different professionals, including psychologists, to recognize mental disorders. For this study, they used the criteria of a major depressive episodeThey found that 25% of the profiles they studied disclosed symptoms of depression. And 2.5% displayed symptoms of an actual major depressive episode. The authors of this article refer to suicide in relation to Facebook being a much talked about topic in the media nowadays. Recently a teen took her own life while broadcasting this using the Facebook Live tool. Because of such events and the fact that Facebook users do sometimes display symptoms online, the researchers opt for identifying those at risk and making sure they receive further clinical evaluation.

Krasnova et al. looked at envy on Facebook. They asked respondents what kind of reasons others might have for experiencing negative emotions using this social media site. And one of the most picked reasons was envy, or upward social comparison. Afterward the participants had to indicate what exactly could elicit such feelings, with travel and leisure being the top reason. They also find that 20% of the times people felt envious, it was elicited by Facebook use.

Kim and Lee (2011) looked at self-reported well-being and Facebook. They posited that the amount of Facebook friends could be associated with people’s well-being. And that is exactly what they found in their sample of college students, more friends mean higher well-being. This wasn’t because they perceive more social support but according to the researchers it is more likely to be an enhancement of self-worth.
In terms of social support, they find a  negative curvilinear association with the amount of friends. Most likely due to the fact that maintaining a few close relationships is important for social support, and that the number of friends is not important in this regard.
Positive self-presentation on Facebook also positively influences people’s well-being. The authors point out that people like having positive feelings about themselves, and that presenting yourself in such a way can increase your subjective well-being.

Dunbar, R. I. (1992). Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates. Journal of human evolution, 22(6), 469-493.

Kim, J., & Lee, J. E. R. (2011). The Facebook paths to happiness: Effects of the number of Facebook friends and self-presentation on subjective well-being. CyberPsychology, behavior, and social networking, 14(6), 359-364.

Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxmann, P. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A hidden threat to users’ life satisfaction?.

Moreno, M. A., Jelenchick, L. A., Egan, K. G., Cox, E., Young, H., Gannon, K. E., & Becker, T. (2011). Feeling bad on Facebook: depression disclosures by college students on a social networking site. Depression and anxiety, 28(6), 447-455.


Let’s Hypothesize: Critical Thinking and Truth on the internet

In the first part of the ‘Let’s Hypothesize’ series, I discussed the impact of the internet, which can be read here.

I find ‘critical thinking’ a difficult topic to discuss since it seems very vague to me. What is considered to be critical? One idea that I repeatedly hear is that people that attend University are taught to think critically. However, I am not sold on this idea just yet. To me, it seems as if institutions teach you a set of rules to apply to study or understand phenomena and when these rules are actively used it is considered to be critical. And different institutions teach different rules to adhere to when, for example, handing in papers or projects. In my experience, thinking outside the box (rules) barely gets you credit. You might hear words of disapproval such as ‘you clearly didn’t understand the essence of this exercise’ or ‘no, you’re interpreting [insert writer/scientist/painter] wrong!’. I personally felt agitated when literature teachers would look for deeper meanings in famous writers’ texts. I mean, did the writer really intend to ‘add’ a deeper meaning to their texts.

Another anecdotal story is when I visited an art museum. This museum had an entire floor dedicated to medieval art. Those who have been exposed to medieval art might now that the perspective tends to be off and you can run into the occasional fish-human, or goats flying through the sky. So some of these paintings really made me laugh when studying them. However I got very dirty looks from the other museum visitors. And then I wondered, did Jeroen Bosch really want me to take his art that seriously? Or was he genuinely poking fun at the world? Why are we so serious when it comes to art and literature? Or do we have to scrutinize every single aspect of the painting and look for deeper meanings?

 Social media and politics
One of the areas I am most interested in when it comes to the use of scrutiny in regards to analyzing situations or objects, is politics. Right now news outlets spend a lot of time covering today’s happenings in politics. So the public is exposed to this information and there seems to be a demand for it as well. With the existence of spaces on the internet (e.g. social media) where people from most parts of the world can engage in discussion, not only are we exposed to information that is supposed to be factual but also others’ opinions. And this creates new and interesting phenomena when it comes to forming attitudes and critical thinking.

Am I normal?
I feel like on of the important aspects of the internet is that people who felt excluded can look actively look for others just like them. Entire communities erupted that shared the same interest, and sometimes even met up offline through conventions. Nowadays so many different hobbies and interests exist that it seems as if humans are becoming more complex in what they take pleasure in. Individuals who might have initially felt somewhat left out because of their interests can now talk to people online about their favorite topics. I recall a time on Facebook when ‘that awkward moment when…’ was a widespread discussed topic. Same goes for ‘I do this thing where I…’ to express the ‘weird’ things that they do. And what happened? A lot of people pointed out that they felt the same way. And using many online communities online, people could suddenly ask millions of people, anonymously, how to fix all sorts of issues. While before most teen magazines would cover such problems through ‘Ask [insert name]’, now it is much easier and faster to simply browse through questions asked by others.

Being exposed to many different opinions people can also become much more polarized in their attitudes. For instance, before people would solely discuss their political beliefs at parties or family events. But now you can look for others alike and talk about your shared beliefs. Though this might become an ‘echo chamber’, where everyone just repeats the same idea over and over. And we have this tendency to start believing things if we hear them enough times. It is also easier to avoid those who have different beliefs, so it is possible to continuously ignore these opinions. So not only will those who hold extreme views start to feel ‘more normal’, they might also become even more extreme.

New online news sites and objectivity
There seems to an increase in new forms of news sites, there are sites that affiliate themselves with extreme political views. The issue with this is that authors might become more biased in order to justify their political views. There are news sites that aren’t necessarily tied to a political ideology, but it seems to be difficult to write a news article without picking a side. The question is, does objectivity really exist? I fear it does not. Whether you want to add a certain meaning to a text, people will interpret it however they want. Though, I do think it is possible to strive for some kind of objectivity. I am aware of the fact that this sounds very vague, but this is an issue of ethics. If you misinform your readers to fit your ‘agenda’ by (creatively) changing statistics, photoshopping images, or deliberately cutting a video to your liking, what are you trying to tell and sell?

Real truth, science, and philosophy
According to several individuals we have entered a time of reflexive modernization (Giddens, Beck, Lash). In this type of society we are constantly evaluating everything around us. This means that before a policy is implemented it will be scrutinized to ensure that it won’t pose any risks to anyone. We constantly want to create buffers before problems can happen. Because if they do, groups of people will be blamed and will be held responsible. An opinion I often hear from parents on scientists is: ‘with my first child I had to make sure that I positioned him like this and that in their crib, but with my second child I had to do the exact opposite! It is like scientists can’t make up their minds!’. Besides, you want to do the best you can and follow orders from your doctor,
but they cannot anticipate everything, unfortunately!
But then we reach this state where truth becomes this philosophical concept. Because when is something really true? Before you come up with a definition, I can write an essay on how our senses are fallible and that we see and hear things that aren’t even present in the ‘real world’. So when do we observe the absolute truth? Because studies have shown us time and time that we see what we want to see or are primed to see. The image above is a representation of this, why do we perceive a triangle in the top image and a sphere in the bottom image? (This is considered to be Gestalt Psychology)

Critical thinking and truth
I am curious to know whether critical thinking has always been a favorable thing, or was it considered defiance in the past? And will we move to a new phase in the cycle where such thinking will again be reprimanded. I often see the word ‘sheeple’ used as an argument when people have a different opinion in a discussion. Through a quick Google search you will find that sheeple are considered to be people who just follow the crowd and are unable to form their own opinions. But still, what is critical thinking really? Is it when you have an opinion that doesn’t match those the majority hold? Google gives me the following definition: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. But what is objectivity if we cannot observe the truth?

‘Let’s Hypothesize’ is part of an article series in which I do not rely on scientific references. Instead I will speculate on topics related to consumer behavior. Plus I will include more historical facts and sociological theories.

social sciences

What are you like? What does your personality predict?

Psychology has created many personality tests that help predict and understand people’s behavior. However one of the most used tests seems to be the Big Five test. This test changed a lot in it’s beginning phases, at the end of the nineteenth century. But now the test includes 5 different traits, which is often abbreviated to OCEAN.

OCEAN stands for the following traits: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. A Big Five test includes scales measuring these five constructs. The beauty of this test is that these traits have been proven to be quite stable over a (person’s) lifetime. And these constructs have been used to measure links with other behaviors or personality traits. For instance, these have been linked to political preference, work performance, health behaviors, and even your social media behavior. (Link below to take the test!)

Big Five traits
As mentioned earlier, the test measures five different traits. The first trait, openness, is about one’s openness to new experiences. If you score high on this trait, you could be considered curious, and interested in arts or music, and you have an active imagination.
Second, there is conscientiousness, this has to do with being organized. This means you’re reliable in your work, and you do things efficiently.
Then there is extraversion, probably one of the most known traits of the Big Five. People who score high on this trait are sociable, outgoing, and not likely to be reversed or timid.
The fourth trait is agreeableness, this is your tendency to agree with others and to cooperate. If you score low on this, you are more likely to blame others, start fights, and be rude.
Lastly, there is neuroticism, people who score high on this are more likely to be emotionally unstable, worry a lot, and get nervous.

Job performance
As mentioned earlier, these traits are linked to behaviors in certain settings. In a job-related setting, in which one has to be social, you could imagine that extraversion would be beneficial for performance. This turned out to be the case according to research done by Barrick and Mount (1991), They also found that conscientiousness was beneficial for most types of jobs.

Political preferences
And in terms of political preferences, center-right voters score a bit higher on conscientiousness, whereas center-left voters scored higher on agreeableness and openness (Capara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1999).
Openness to experience is negatively related to conservatism, this means that those who tend to score low on this trait are more likely to hold conservative views. Extraversion is linked to political participation, that is carried out through group settings, which intuitively makes sense since you will be spending time with others. Furthermore, extroverts are also more likely to engage in political discussions, however, interestingly enough do not necessarily possess more political knowledge. Those who score high on openness to experience do seem to have more of this knowledge. And lastly, highly agreeable individuals tend to avoid political discussions (Mondak & Halperin, 2008), and one could speculate that they would do so to avoid situations in which they might have to disagree, this might create an uncomfortable situation.

Health behaviors 
Conscientiousness is linked to behaviors that promote health, agreeableness is linked to behaviors that include less substance use. While both behaviors predict less risk-taking in traffic situations. The same researchers that found these links argue that knowledge of such associations can improve programs aimed to increase/promote help. For instance, they propose that those scoring low on conscientiousness might benefit more from programs that involve peers (Booth-Kewely & Vickers, 1994).

Social media behaviors
Those scoring high on openness to might be more likely to share and post intellectual information (Marshall, Lefringhausen, & Ferenczi, 2015). People who use Facebook for socializing score higher on neuroticism, whereas people who use Twitter for the same purpose score higher on openness. Individuals high in neuroticism and extraversion preferred Facebook over Twitter (Hughes, Rowe, Batey,  & Lee, 2012). The amount of Facebook friends has also been studied, neuroticism is negatively linked to this amount. This means that those high in neuroticism have fewer friends. And extraversion is positively linked, thus scoring higher on this trait means having more Facebook friends. Neurotics also engage in ‘liking’ others’ posts more and are part of more Facebook groups. The authors argue that these individuals tend to experience more negative emotions and therefore are more likely to take part in behaviors that might prompt support (Bachrach et al, 2012).

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Inventory used to describe traits, very interesting read!

Bachrach, Y., Kosinski, M., Graepel, T., Kohli, P., & Stillwell, D. (2012). Personality and patterns of Facebook usage. In Proceedings of the 4th Annual ACM Web Science Conference (pp. 24-32). ACM.
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 44(1), 1-26.
Booth‐Kewley, S., & Vickers, R. R. (1994). Associations between major domains of personality and health behavior. Journal of personality, 62(3), 281-298.
Capara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1999). Personality profiles and political parties. Political psychology, 20(1), 175-197.
Hughes, D. J., Rowe, M., Batey, M., & Lee, A. (2012). A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 561-569.
Marshall, T. C., Lefringhausen, K., & Ferenczi, N. (2015). The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 35-40.
Mondak, J. J., & Halperin, K. D. (2008). A framework for the study of personality and political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 38(02), 335-362.