How Telling is Author Voice?: Further Associations Between Personality and Writing

Hunt, Jasper
Just as everyone has a unique personality, so too does everyone have a unique style of writing. The differences in writing styles are so pervasive that individuals' writing styles persist across writings on different topics, and writing styles are distinguishable in samples from several different domains (e.g. academic publications, diary entries, and school assignments; Pennebaker & King, 1999). Indeed, the consistency of writing styles is on par with individuals' responses to questionnaires (Pennebaker & King, 1999). Existing research into differences in style focuses largely on formal writing samples, such as letters (Broehl & McGee, 1981), published books (Foster, 1996), and the aforementioned academic publications, diary entries, and school assignments (Pennebaker & King, 1999). Yet these analyses do not capture the breadth of people's writing. Individuals often write informally, as when they make personal notes. The present study aims to address this issue through a novel application of linguistic analysis, thereby supporting the ecological validity of studies examining associations between writing styles and personality characteristics. In this study, 86 cohabiting couples completed self-report questionnaires that assessed multiple personality characteristics. Each couple-member then wrote for 10 minutes about a time when they felt emotionally vulnerable, with many writing in list formats. Afterward, couples had conversations about their vulnerabilities and completed further questionnaires. Writing samples were later digitized and analyzed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC; Pennebaker, Francis, & Booth, 2001) software. Finally, correlational analyses were used to examine the associations between writing tendencies and their personality characteristics.
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