Researchers from Wake Forest University (WFU) have uncovered a type of question that can indirectly reveal a lot about a person’s personality.

In a study conducted by WFU’s Dr Dustin Wood, participants were asked to voice their opinion regarding another person, with researchers working off a hunch that the way an individual talks about someone else can actually reveal a lot about themselves.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, consisted of three parts: in one, respondents were asked to gauge the positive and negative characteristics of three other people.

The more positive their response, the more cheerful, enthusiastic, competent and emotionally stable they turned out to be themselves.

Those who judged others in a more negative manner displayed narcissistic traits and signs of antisocial behaviour.

“A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” said Dr Wood.

“The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.”

A year later, Dr Wood revisited some of the study’s participants, discovering their opinions had not changed at all: those who’d previously perceived others in a positive manner remained positive, while more negative respondents still remained negative, suggesting that a person’s opinion of someone else is upheld over time.

The reason for this is that people tend to relate to more of their own qualities within someone else, so a considerate individual will tend to rate others as considerate, while a greedy person will view others as more greedy.

“…although narcissists may perceive others as being uninteresting or worthless, this may not reflect how they see themselves,” notes the study’s authors.

“Similarly, individuals displaying behaviours typical of paranoid personality disorder may believe that others are malevolent and untrustworthy, even though they may not see themselves that way.

“Machiavellianism is usually measured in part by asking individuals the extent to which they perceive a lack of sincerity, integrity or selflessness in others’ actions, and narcissistic behaviour is thought to be prompted in part by a belief that other people are inferior, uninteresting, and unworthy of attention.”

So, the best way to determine someone’s positivity is to ask them: “What do you think of Dave?”

…Science says so!

Image via Flickr.

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