How many times have you observed another person and thought, “I wonder what makes him/her behave that way”? Probably many more times than you would like to admit.
There are so many actions throughout your day that go unremembered – pulling off a few sheets of toilet paper, sending a quick email to a colleague, picking up toiletries at the drugstore. But these small, seemingly insignificant behaviors can provide meaningful insights into your emotions, your personality traits, and the way you approach life in general. People show who they really are in very subtle ways – including their habits. In fact, your choices and preferences are almost as telling as your Myers-Briggs personality type. We dug up psychological research and expert opinion on what different daily habits might reveal about you.
Note that none of this information is definitive, and that these general findings might not apply to you specifically. Rather, they can provide starting points for learning more about your own and others’ motivations.
The Huffington Post spoke to experts on food-related behaviors and learned that our eating habits can say a lot about our personalities.
Specifically, slow eaters generally like to be in control and know how to appreciate life. Fast eaters tend to be ambitious, goal-oriented, open to new experiences, and often impatient.
Adventurous eaters probably like to step out of their comfort zones, while picky eaters are likely neurotic in different areas of their lives.
Finally, those who separate different foods on their plate are inclined to be detail oriented and disciplined.
Toilet paper placement
The debate about the “right way” to hang your TP has raged nearly since the roller’s invention. However, therapist Gilda Carle, PhD, claims that she can learn about your personality through your preference on this matter. She surveyed 2,000 men and women about whether they hang their toilet paper in the overhand or underhand position. She also asked her volunteers to fill out questionnaires that would probe how assertive they were, on a scale of 1 to 10, in their relationships. Dr. Carle’s results suggest that those who prefer the overhand method are more dominant, while the underhand-ers tend to be more submissive. (Some extremely dominant types even admitted to switching the paper direction in other bathrooms they visited.) “What first began as a fun exercise actually turned into an accurate assessment tool. While it adds humor to the conversation, it also provides insight on your compatibility with a prospective partner,” Carle said.
If you’re trying to pick up cues from your coworker, the answer may lie in your inbox. Psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, PhD, writes in Fast Company that there is a strong connection between our email persona and our real-life character. Text mining studies have found associations between certain keywords and major traits. Narcissists will generally use words such as “I,” “me,” and “mine” frequently. Extroverts tend to be more casual and talk about fun-related things, like music and parties. And it’s not only what you say – it’s how you say it. An absence of typos is a sign of someone’s conscientiousness, perfectionism, and potential obsessions, whereas poor grammar indicates lower levels of IQ and academic intelligence. Interestingly, long emails reflect energy and thoroughness, but also some degree of neediness. Everyone should stop writing these 10 irritating phrases in emails.
Let’s hang out in the email space a little longer for this next one. Whether you’re an inbox hero or you don’t mind watching your “unread” count tick up to 10,001, the way you maintain your email inbox may say a lot about your personality.
Those who file and delete emails as soon as they receive them may have a greater need for control and order in their lives. Those who save emails – meaning they read them but don’t delete them – may be perfectionists, who think they’ll get around to addressing those messages eventually.
Lastly, those who leave emails unread, without filing or deleting them, may feel overwhelmed. Alternatively, they may also be smart because they recognize that reading those emails isn’t helping them make substantive progress.
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality suggests that timeliness is an accurate assessment of positive character traits. In the study, researchers asked participants to complete a personality assessment at home and come to the laboratory for a group experiment. By analyzing the participants time of arrival, they found punctual people were more conscientious and agreeable; being early was connected to neuroticism. And those who are chronically late tended to be more laid-back. Are you often tardy? Try some of these must-steal habits of people who are always on time.
Most of us are guilty of checking our phones when we’re waiting in line at the grocery store, commuting to work, or even talking to friends.
Recent research reveals what it means if you’re constantly staring at that screen. The 2015 study measured cell phone “addiction” by asking people how much they agreed with statements such as “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight” and “I spend more time than I should on my cell phone.”
Results showed that emotional instability was a key predictor of cell-phone addiction.
Interestingly, the study also found that introverts – people who expressed feelings of shyness and bashfulness – were less likely to be addicted to their phones.
Want to get to know someone better? Take them to the mall. A series of experiments, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that there are two types of consumers: the explanation fiend and the explanation foe. A fiend is the type to meticulously scrutinize every single shampoo bottle in the aisle before settling for something. On the other hand, a foe will quickly decide and be done. According to the researchers, the fiends score high on measures of cognitive reflection, meaning they analyze information to death and are detail-oriented. Explanation foes don’t do well with details and prefer more general information.
We tend to make a lot of assumptions about each other based on the way people walk. For example, we associate looser gaits with extroversion and adventurousness, and see clipped walkers as more neurotic.
But those assumptions are generally wrong.
The only thing that research suggests we can accurately predict from someone’s walk is how vulnerable they feel. In one 2013 study, researchers asked inmates to watch video clips of different people walking and judge which were most vulnerable to victimization.
Results showed that inmates who scored higher on measures of psychopathy were more likely to pick out walkers who had been victimized in the past. When asked why they made their judgments, many said they could tell by the way the person walked.
There’s a reason why some people engage in what scientists call “body-focused repetitive behaviors” (BFRB), like biting their nails, pulling their hair, or picking their skin.
In one 2015 study, researchers filmed people while they were in a situation that was stressful, frustrating, relaxing, or boring. Results showed that those who scored high on measures of perfectionism were more likely to display these behaviors, especially in the stressful, frustrating, and boring conditions.
As Scientific American reports, boredom may be a trigger for BFRB because those behaviors may be a way for perfectionists to feel better by doing something instead of nothing.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found your handshake can alter people’s impressions of you. In the experiment, judges were trained to assess eight characteristics of a handshake: completeness of grip, temperature, dryness, strength, duration, vigor, texture, and eye contact. The results indicate that participants with firmer handshakes described themselves as more emotionally expressive, extroverted, and positive than others. Those with looser grips were more shy and neurotic. The judges’ first impressions correlated with this—they agreed that the participants with firmer handshakes were more confident and less socially anxious. Here are some other observations about what your handshake says about you.