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The Nearest Thing to Mind Reading

June 10, 2008
“A person can put up a good face and avoid disclosing different types of information,” he added. “You would think depressed people party less, talk less, laugh less and interact less. But the students who reported having the most depressive symptoms did those things as much as anyone else.”

The researchers uncovered a few things: Stream of consciousness writing often speaks more loudly about private personality traits than do public forms of expression and those who read personal narratives written by other people can most often come up with an accurate judgment of that person’s character.

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Instead of focusing on personal Web sites and blogs, UA psychology researchers used stream of consciousness writings in their research to determine a more accurate measure of individual personlity traits.

Stream of consciousness, a century-old literary device, is helping University of Arizona researchers get to the core of individual personality.
But UA assistant psychology professor Matthias R. Mehl and Shannon E. Holleran, a doctoral degree candidate in psychology, wanted to delve into the difficult-to-measure, private nuances of personality. So they set out on a study using stream of consciousness writing.
They found that reading private thoughts manifest in a writing surge resulted in the ability to make “surprisingly accurate” measures of a person’s personality traits.
Mehl said “the general sense is that just by looking at someone’s picture or Web site or by reading somebody’s blog, you can get a very good sense of what that person is like.”
That may not be entirely true.
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