If you’ve ever gone through any kind of personality assessment for a job interview, a group dynamics workshop, or a psychology experiment, you know how transparent those assessment statements read:
- I find it difficult to get down to work.Or the worst of all:
- I feel I have no control over my life.
- I make friends easily.
- I usually lie if I know I can get away with it.The reactivity of standardized personality assessment scales is problematic, and clearly if it were easy for personality psychologists to observe people without them knowing and systematically record their behaviors, one would be far more certain about the assessment.
As MMO environments get more complex, more social and more nuanced, the breadth and depth of behaviors and choices we could unobtrusively track from individual users is quite staggering. One could easily track:
- the average number of characters this person interacts with dailyIn fact, from the first two alone, one could find out how well connected an individual is in the social network. In real life, stealth marketers pay big money to find trend-setters. In a virtual world, you can figure out who the “connectors” are with great precision.
- the average length of conversations / utterances with another character
- frequency this person is in a leadership position (guild / group leader)
But you would also be able to build incredibly detailed personality profiles of individuals. And not only that, we would also be able to figure out how an individual ranks on those personality scales against a dataset of at least 200k other individuals. That degree of breadth and precision are impossible with traditional personality assessment techniques.
Now, one might argue that the pretense of separate avatar identities and unrealistic settings precludes us from finding out anything “real” about someone in the MMO environment, but that’s not necessarily true. We know that players in existing worlds are emotionally invested in their avatars and the worlds. And it’s precisely because people are personally invested in their avatars and the virtual world that every choice they make becomes personally revealing.
For personality psychologists, being able to track and record the behaviors of thousands of people unobtrusively through an automated process was never possible. Now they can do exactly that.