Personality as manifest in word use: correlations with self-report, acquaintance report, and behavior

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Feb;94(2):334-46. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.2.334.


The use of words is one of the most direct means of expressing thoughts and feelings. However, past studies have had limited success in correlating word use with personality. The purpose of the present study was to identify categories of word use relevant to personality using a broad range of personality data. Using data from 181 participants, the present study correlated word use within a 1-hr life history interview with self-judgments of personality, judgments of personality provided by close acquaintances (who were not exposed to the language sample), and behavioral ratings based on direct observation from a context entirely separate from that from which the language sample was derived. Several categories of word use yielded a large number of correlates with self- and acquaintance personality ratings and behavior. It is suggested that word use is related to personality to a larger degree than previously observed and deserves increased attention as a source of data in personality assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Language
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception*
  • Verbal Behavior