Are you a member of the grammar police, or willing to let a few typos slide? It turns out your reaction to written grammatical and spelling errors may say something about your personality. According to a study recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, negative reactions to written errors may be linked to more introverted, or less agreeable, personality types. Neutral reactions to written errors, meanwhile, may be linked to more extraverted personalities.
Gizmodo reports that researchers at the University of Michigan presented 83 participants with an email that contained grammar errors (for instance, the misuse of “to” or “too”), spelling mistakes, or no mistakes at all. Participants took a personality test, read the email, and then assessed the anonymous email writer on qualities like “perceived intelligence” and “friendliness.”
The email read:
Hey! My name is Pat and I’m interested in sharing a house with other students who are serious abuot (about) there (their) schoolwork but who also know how to relax and have fun. I like to play tennis and love old school rap. If your (you’re) someone who likes that kind of thing too, maybe we would mkae (make) good housemates.
Researchers found that extraverted participants were the most likely to overlook both grammatical and spelling errors, and that those errors had little impact on their assessment of the anonymous email writer. Less agreeable people, meanwhile, were more sensitive to grammatical errors, while more conscientious and less open people were sensitive to spelling mistakes.
Though it’s unclear why less agreeable people judged grammar most harshly, while introverted people were more bothered by typos, researchers believe it may have to do with the different causes of so-called “grammos" and “typos.” While typos (“teh" instead of “the,” for instance) are often keyboard mistakes caused by hasty typing, grammos (“they’re” instead of “there”) may imply a misunderstanding of the rules of grammar.
"The attributions associated with grammos are more personalized and may thus be more likely to impact other unrelated assessments of the writer (such as trustworthiness), compared with the more neutral attributions associated with typos,” the study's authors explain.
If that’s the case, it’s possible participants who were bothered by grammar may have made more assumptions about the writer’s personality, while those who were sensitive to typos may have simply been annoyed with the writer’s carelessness. However, more research is needed to clarify the connections between personality and sensitivity to written errors. While the study implies such a connection exists, it’s impossible to draw too many conclusions based solely on an 83 participant study focused on a single sample email.
What is clear, however, is that in the Internet era, understanding how people perceive written styles and linguistic imperfection is becoming increasingly important.
“Social assessments of written errors take on particular importance given that many of our interactions either occur solely via electronically mediated communication (EMC) or become face to face interactions only after initial vetting via EMC,” the study's authors explain. “When we interact electronically with people we don’t otherwise know, the effects of written errors may be heightened because of the lack of the kinds of contextual information found in face-to-face interaction.”