WSU Pysch Students Study Facebook Usage

Emily Ferguson

A group of WSU psychology students recently did a study on Facebook usage. (Emily Ferguson / The Signpost)
A group of WSU psychology students recently did a study on Facebook usage. (Emily Ferguson / The Signpost)

A group of Weber State University students conducted a study last semester about the links between personality traits and Facebook usage.

Crystal Garcia, Corbin Standley, Kaitlin Staker and Lyndsi Drysdale surveyed 194 participants from introductory psychology classes at WSU to gain a better knowledge of the inspirations and feelings associated with Facebook usage and postings.

Standley, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, graduated in May 2015 and now works as a Research Analyst for Neuro-Oncology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“As a group, we were all interested in exploring personality traits and how they relate to Internet usage,” Standley said. “I’ve always been interested in human behavior and the mind.”

The students worked alongside assistant psychology professor Shannon McGillivary. During the study, the group was able to find links between certain personalities and the types of people with these personalities post to their Facebook page.

Since personality differences in terms of frequency of Facebook use have been studied broadly, the group wanted to narrow the  study down to what compels someone to post certain things to their page.

“We looked at the personality trait of narcissists,” McGillivary said. “We also looked at the big five personality traits.”

The big five traits, including openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, can easily be found with a number of questions about what compels a person to participate in certain actions such as posting a selfie on social media.

“One of the main things we were interested in is what motivates people to engage in certain things,” McGillivary said.

The group discovered that narcissists, who tend to be more self-loving, post to Facebook frequently because they want others to know how great they are, said McGillivary.

#getpsyched poster at the Department of Psychology.
A poster with the hashtag get psyched is on display in the Department of Psychology. (Emily Ferguson / The Signpost)

On the contrary, introverts tend to post the least amount of information or opinions on Facebook.

The results found that people who have more self-absorption are more likely to become upset when a person removes them as a friend. On the other hand, outgoing people were less likely to unfriend individuals.

Surprisingly, persons who scored in the openness personality trait were more likely to unfriend someone based on a controversial post.

“This was one of the most counterintuitive findings of the study,” McGillivary said. “It makes sense, however, since more open [minded] people tend to not like closed-minded individuals.”

Additionally, participants who fell into the big five personality traits felt stunned when they were unfriended.

In terms of narcissists in general, the group found that this personality trait is more likely to post more than once a day or things that he or she finds imperative, regardless of the importance of the post itself.

“We found that people of neuroticism, those who are more emotionally unstable, were just on Facebook to play the games,” McGillivary said.

This, according to McGillivary, is a distinctive trait of addictive behavior.

Six months after surveying participants and gathering data, the findings of the study were presented at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, the WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research.

“Because of the popularity of Facebook, we knew the study would yield interesting results,” Standley said.