Personality profiles have been used in the past for employment screenings and online dating profiles, but not so much for leadership positions so far. Now, a software program developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) has offered a new way to understand the personality of military and political leaders. Published in the American Intelligence Journal, the new approach sought to address some of the methodological flaws associated with the traditional process of manually building personality profiles.
Instead of screening people with a number of questions that correspond to various personality traits, BGU’s computer program uses vectors representing different personality dimensions. Referred to as vector dynamics, the program constructs a number of vectors that are used to measure their similarity with text written by the person. The study focused on President Obama’s State of the Union addresses from 2009 and 2014, comparing any difference in personality exhibited between the two versions.
The main difference between the two versions was the “loner” personality trait as well as higher levels of fear and anger that appeared in the more recent speech. The researchers’ program found the loner quality in the 2014 speech to be indicative of social anxiety, or a type of withdrawal from painful social interaction. Both speeches also scored on the “assertive” and “organized” traits of the test.
“Computational personality gives us the ability to better understand the minds of military and political leaders, which is an important aspect of strategic intelligence,” said Yair Neuman, Ph.D., co-author and BGU professor.
The researchers also evaluated former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s speech to the United Nations in 2012, finding him to score high in the “obsessive” personality category, suggesting that he was “out of touch with the people” and the bigger picture.
Applications of computational personality
Other speeches that were analyzed with the program included Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, who scored high on the psychopathic portion and was suggested by the authors to most likely think in absolutes and see relationships in predatorial terms.
BGU’s computational personality program could not only be incorporated into background checks in the future, but be used during election periods for political candidates as well as in performance reviews for the military. Employers could screen their candidates for undesired (or desired, depending on the line of work) traits such as psychopathy or other anti-social behavior that could put a strain on teamwork. Other applications of the technology could apply to social networking or dating site suggestions as well as with job placement and career counseling.
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Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer