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The Four Personality Types: Which One Are You?

Most people fall into one of four basic types, reveals a new study.

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What’s your sign, baby? That may have been the groovy question to ask 50 years ago, but today, researchers in Spain have provided us with a new party icebreaker question. In research published in the journal Science Advances, scientists collaborating from several universities in Spain have concluded that 90 percent of the population falls into four basic personality types: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trusting and Envious.

Their work is actually part of game theory, a branch of math that laps over into sociology and economics and looks at how people will behave when they have to make decisions. For this study, those involved were asked to participate in a game in pairs, and the pairs switched off repeatedly. “So, the best option could be to cooperate or, on the other hand, to oppose or betray... In this way, we can obtain information about what people do in very different social situations,” wrote study author Anxo Sánchez, a professor in the Department of Mathematics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

After carrying out their social experiment to gather the data, the researchers developed a computer algorithm that classified people by the way they behaved during the games. The algorithm was able to sort 90 percent of the people into four groups:

  • Envious: The biggest group, I hate to say it, was Envious, with 30 percent of people behaving this way. These people don’t mind what they achieve, so long as they are doing better than everyone else.
  • Optimists: Twenty percent of the participants behaved this way. These are people who believe that they or their partner would make the best choice for them.
  • Pessimists: Another 20 percent; members of this group feel that they are choosing the lesser of two evils when faced with a decision.
  • Trusting: Folks in this 20 percent are born collaborators, who are happy to work with other people. They didn’t seem to care if they won or lost the game.

What about the remaining 10 percent? Those people fell outside of the behavior models that were clear to the algorithm, and were undefined.

So you might think of the four groups expressing this way, Sánchez gave as an example. Let’s say there are a bunch of people stranded in the woods, and they need to hunt for dinner. “Two people can hunt deer together, but if they are alone, they can only hunt smaller game, like rabbits. The person belonging to the Envious group will choose to hunt rabbits because he or she will be at least equal to the other hunter, or maybe even better; the Optimist will choose to hunt deer because that is the best option for both hunters; the Pessimist will go for rabbits because that way he or she is sure to catch something; and the hunter who belongs to the Trusting group will cooperate and choose to hunt deer, without a second thought.”

Which group are you in? Do any of these personality types resonate with you? Tell us in the comments section below.


Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers. 


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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