Now, what personality type I shall I project today...?

October 24, 2003

Edinburgh University has developed a novel addition to word-processing style checkers - software that lets you choose the personality you want to project.

A team from Edinburgh's School of Informatics has established what words project different personality types.

Its demonstration system, showcased at the industry launch of a £5.3 million language technology collaboration between Edinburgh and Stanford universities and Scottish Enterprise, focuses on three personality models: extroversion, emotionality and tough-mindedness.

Jon Oberlander, reader in cognitive science, said the software was based on research by PhD student Alastair Gill, drawing on an analysis of emails.

A text high in emotionality will frequently use "I" and "me", for example, while extroverts will use phrases such as "want to" and "able to".

Users of the software key in their preferred personality type, and the checker will pick up on phrases and words that should be altered. The word "future", for example, scores lower in terms of extroversion and emotionality than "tomorrow".

Dr Oberlander acknowledged that the checker could conceivably allow the writer to mask their personality but argued that people did that already.

"We're not offering a personality morphing device," he said.

The software was possibly most useful to an organisation that wanted to present a consistent personality despite its material being written by different people, he said.

Edinburgh hopes the industry launch will give businesses access to leading-edge technology from the School of Informatics and help generate new spin-off companies.

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