Personality Impacts Email Critiques

Are you the type that could care less if an email has grammatical or spelling errors, or do you take note of each written error and use the information as a way to judge the sender?

While there is no right or wrong answer, the way someone reacts to written errors is partly the result of personality traits, University of Michigan linguistics experts say.

In a new study researchers examined the way in which actual written errors (not changing conventions of writing) and the ways in which social interpretations of them may be influenced by characteristics of the listener.

Researchers discovered extroverted people are likely to overlook typos and grammatical errors that would cause introverted people to judge the person who makes such errors more negatively.

“This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language,” said Dr. Julie Boland, University of Michigan professor of linguistics and psychology, and the study’s lead author.

“In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about the writers.”

Eighty-three participants read email responses to an ad for a housemate that either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos, such as mkae (make) or abuot (about), or grammar errors, such as to/too, it’s/its or your/you’re.

The study participants then rated the email writers in terms of perceived intelligence, friendliness, and other attributes, as well as provided information about themselves.

At the end of the experiment, participants were asked if they noticed any grammatical errors in the responses. If they answered “yes,” they indicated how much the errors bothered them.

As expected, participants who reported grammar being important at the beginning of the experiment were more likely to be bothered by grammatical errors at the end, said study co-author Dr. Robin Queen, professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics.

Researchers also discovered that, in addition, less agreeable people are more sensitive to grammatical errors, while more conscientious and less open people are sensitive to typos, the researchers said.

The study appears on PLOS ONE online.

Source: University of Michigan