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How Cell Phone Movements Can Assess Your Personality

New research reveals that patterns of mobile phone movement say a lot about your personality.

For the study, researchers at RMIT University in Australia used data from mobile phone accelerometers, the tiny sensors tracking phone movement for step-counting and other apps.

According to RMIT University computer scientist Associate Professor Flora Salim, previous studies predicted personality types using phone call and messaging activity logs, but the new study showed adding accelerometer data improved accuracy.

“Activity like how quickly or how far we walk, or when we pick our phones up during the night, often follows patterns and these patterns say a lot about our personality type,” said Salim.

According to the researchers, physical activity has a strong correlation with human personality. That’s why they analyzed physical activity features from different dimensions like dispersion, diversity, and regularity.

Key findings from the study:

  • People with consistent movements on weekday evenings were generally more introverted, while extroverts displayed more random patterns, perhaps meeting up with different people and taking up unplanned options.
  • Agreeable people had more random activity patterns and were busier on weekends and weekday evenings than others.
  • Friendly and compassionate females made more outgoing calls than anyone else.
  • Conscientious, organized people didn’t tend to contact the same person often in a short space of time.
  • Sensitive or neurotic females often checked their phones or moved with their phones regularly well past midnight. Sensitive or neurotic males did the opposite.
  • More inventive and curious people tended to make and receive fewer phone calls compared to others.

“There are applications for this technology in social media with friend recommendations, online dating matches, and targeted advertising, but I think the most exciting part is what we can learn about ourselves,” noted RMIT University Ph.D. student Nan Gao, the study’s lead author.

“Many of our habits and behaviors are unconscious but, when analyzed, they tell us a lot about who we really are so we can understand ourselves better, resist social pressure to conform, and to empathize with others. Most importantly, being who we truly are can make our experience of life richer, more exciting, and more meaningful.”

“In Ancient Greece there is a saying about knowing yourself as the beginning of wisdom, applications like this can really help to reveal who we are to ourselves,” Gao continued.

The results were analyzed in accordance with the Big Five personality traits:

  1. Extraversion: How energetic, sociable and talkative you are.
  2. Openness: How curious and inventive you are.
  3. Agreeableness: How friendly and compassionate, rather than suspicious and hostile, you are to others.
  4. Conscientiousness: How organized, efficient, and careful you are.
  5. Neuroticism: How nervous and sensitive, rather than confident and secure, you are.

The study was published in the IEEE Computer journal.

Source: RMIT University

Photo: RMIT University computer scientists Dr. Flora Salim, Nan Gao and Dr Wei Shao. Credit: RMIT University.

How Cell Phone Movements Can Assess Your Personality

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). How Cell Phone Movements Can Assess Your Personality. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Jul 2019 (Originally: 28 Jul 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Jul 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.