Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? Or are you something else?
New research out of Spain suggests that almost all of humanity can fit into one of four types of personalities: optimistic, pessimistic, trusting or envious.
The study, which appeared in the journal Science Advances, involved 541 volunteers and involved something called game theory. This theory uses mathematical applications in sociology and economics, specifically addressing how people react when faced with a difficult decision.
Participants were put into pairs with the pairs changing after they make a decision. After this social experiment, the researchers used a computer algorithm that classified each person based on his or her behaviour. Using this algorithm, the vast majority — 90 per cent — could be classified into one of the four groups.
- Envious: those who don’t mind what they achieve, as long as they’re better than everyone else
- Optimists: those who believe they and their partner are capable of making the best decision for themselves
- Pessimists: those who pick the lesser of two evils when faced with options
- Trusting: those who collaborate with their partners and don’t mind whether they win or lose
Interestingly, the most common personality type belonged to those who are envious, with 30 per cent classified in that group. For the other three types of personalities, 20 per cent belonged to each other groups.
So what of the other 10 per cent? The computer failed to come up with a specific classification to any definitive type of behaviour.
This type of mathematical algorithm has been used previously in other scientific fields, with a high success rate.
“This type of classification algorithm has previously been used with success in other fields, such as biology,” said Anxo Sánchez, one of the study’s authors. “However, its application to the study of human behaviour is quite revolutionary.”
The researchers hope to use this to further study human behaviour on a wider scale.
The study was undertaken by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, as well as the universities of Barcelona, Rovira i Virgili and Zaragoza.