Emerging research from psychologists at the University of York suggests a remarkable amount of information about a person’s real world personality can be obtained from their online alias.
Moreover, analysis of anonymized data from one of the world’s most popular computer games also revealed information about participant’s ages.
For the research, Professor Alex Wade and Ph.D. student Athanasios Kokkinakis analyzed data from League of Legends, a game played by around 70 million people worldwide.
The investigators say that mining of video game data could become an important area of research into the personalities of players, as well as potentially providing evidence of clinical disorders such as autism, sociopathy, or addictive personality.
The research appears in Computers in Human Behavior.
The developer of League of Legends provided 500,000 data points for the analysis. The anonymized data contained user names, information on the in-game behavior of players and the reaction of other gamers — the latter from the post-match “Honor” and “Report” feedback each player can file.
The study is the first to use this methodology to examine player interaction in a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game.
Investigators found that where a player incorporated a profanity or other antisocial expression in their user name, they tended to adopt similar antisocial behavior in the game environment.
Conversely, they found that positive in-game behavior such as rapid learning, team building, or leadership might correlate both with positive usernames and with positive personality traits in the real world.
The psychologists also discovered that where numbers featured in user names, it often provided an indication of the age of players.
Wade said, “Video games can provide a wealth of useful population-level information on developmental, cognitive, and psychological processes. We found that people who have antisocial names tend to behave in an antisocial way within the game. Younger people behave poorly and older people less so.
“This data is like a window on individual players’ personalities so we believe that we might be able to use video games as a way of testing people’s personalities.”
Said Kokkinakis, “We think this is just the tip of the iceberg — these massive datasets offer an unprecedented tool for studying human psychology across the globe.”