How Taking a Word for a Word Can Be Problematic: Context-Dependent Linguistic Markers of Extraversion and Neuroticism

  • Matthias R. Mehl (University of Arizona)
  • Megan L. Robbins (University of Arizona)
  • Shannon E. Holleran (University of Arizona)


This study conceptually extends recent research on linguistic markers of psychological processes by demonstrating that psychological correlates of word use can vary with the context in which the words are used. The word use of 90 participants was analyzed across two theoretically defined communication contexts. Information about participants’ public language use was derived from recorded snippets of their daily conversations with others. Information about their private language use was derived from stream-of-consciousness essays. Personality trait–word use associations emerged as highly context dependent. Extraversion as a public trait was related to verbal productivity in public but not private language. Neuroticism as a private trait was related to the verbal expression of emotions in private but not public language. Verbal immediacy was indicative of Extraversion in public and Neuroticism in private language use. The findings illustrate the importance of considering communication contexts in research on psychological implications of natural language use.

Keywords: Personality expression, personality judgment, text analysis, communication, LIWC, Electronically Activated Recorder

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Published on
15 Feb 2013
Peer Reviewed