News Release 

Research reveals how personality affects susceptibility to persuasion

Researchers at Edge Hill University have helped identify personality traits which make people more (or less) susceptible to persuasion than others

Edge Hill University

Researchers at Edge Hill University in England have helped identify personality traits which make people more (or less) susceptible to persuasion than others.

Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Helen Wall and colleagues Dr Linda Kaye and Dr Andy Levy, carried out the research with academics at Ulster University and the University of New England, Australia.

They asked 316 people to complete online questionnaires revealing their personality traits and how easily they might be persuaded.

From this they identified three main personality profiles which they named Fearful, Malevolent and Socially Apt.

They found Fearful people who are typically shy, socially inhibited and anxious were more likely to follow the crowd and be persuaded to do something by people in authority.

Those with a more extrovert, self-orientated and manipulative personality (Malevolent profile) were less likely to be influenced by authority figures, less willing to return a favour and more likely to be persuaded if something was only available for a limited time.

Lastly, they found that agreeable, extroverted and conscientiousness Socially Apt people were more likely to be persuaded to do something if it helps maintain their commitment to something they've done before.

Dr Linda Kaye, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: "Rather than looking at personality traits in isolation we looked at the Big-5, Dark Triad and Type D Personality scales together, and in relation to Cialdini's model of persuasion.

"This helped us create more accurate personality profiles, so we could then predict a person's likelihood to do something and how easily they could be persuaded."

Dr Helen Wall, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: "I'm very passionate about the need to encourage a proactive approach to children's mental health and wellbeing.

"From this research I'd like to develop a programme of research which utilises personalised persuasive approaches encouraging young children to be proactive towards their own wellbeing.

"Adopting a personalised approach that 'nudges' people towards taking positive action, I believe, is very important."

Dr Andy Levy, Reader in Psychology, said: "Our study sheds some light on how combining personality characteristics can influence human persuasion.

"We are now in a position to further explore how our findings can benefit the health, wellbeing and behaviour for many people across varied contexts in society."

The team are keen to explore their findings further and examine whether the results can be replicated.

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To read the research in full please visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886918305865

Notes to editors

Dr Andy Levy, Reader in Psychology at Edge Hill University, is interested in how personality and individual differences can promote rehabilitation recovery, physical activity and prevent the misuse of performance enhancing substances. A better understanding of the link between personality and persuasion has the potential to better inform the effectiveness of psychological interventions.

Dr Linda Kaye, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, is particularly interested in this research in relation to cyberpsychology and how people behave online. "Personality profiling like this can be used to help in cybercrime, drawing on the idea of nudge theory. Nudge theory focuses on presenting choices to people in specific ways to 'nudge' them towards an action. How this profiling could be used online is a huge area, but we want to apply this data positively online to mindfulness tools".

Dr Claire Campbell, Lecturer in Social Psychology at Ulster University, is primarily interested in the applications of this work in a political or intergroup context. This research may be used as a basis for future work exploring the efficacy of persuasion in a range of political contexts from understanding how personality interacts with susceptibility to radicalised messages or exploring how to political messages can be designed to reach a broader audience (i.e. to appeal to all personality types).

Associate Professor Navjot Bhullar from the University of New England, is interested in understanding psychological, emotional and environmental influences on mental health and wellbeing, and developing targeted communication strategies for public engagement. Her work also includes the use of advanced sophisticated statistical techniques for audience segmentation to better understand groups of people who share similar attitudes and other individual difference characteristics. Such techniques help to categorise each individual in terms of his or her "psychographic" profile, which then informs targeted intervention strategies to suit individual needs.

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