What does it mean if someone says you have no personality?
“We typically understand that we have not been paid a compliment,” write four researchers from Ouachita Baptist University in a recently published study. But the term is otherwise a little vague. Does it mean you’re quiet and reserved, or that you’re just not very unique? Are you, God forbid, basic?
The study’s conclusions point to something unfortunate for the quiet and reserved among us. People with no personality are those who don’t bombard other people with their preferences and thoughts like little opinion drones. And their image suffers for it.
First the researchers asked 104 study participants to describe what it means to have “no personality” or “a lot of personality” in an open-ended writing exercise. Then each participant nominated a character from a book, movie, or TV show that has no personality and one that has a lot of personality. The participants rated the characters in terms of the “big five” personality scale, a common psychological tool for gauging people’s levels of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience.
The two characters nominated most often as having a lot of personality were Kramer from Seinfeld and Spider-Man from, uh, New York City. The characters most commonly deemed to have no personality were Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory and two subdued characters from The Office, Angela Martin and Toby Flenderson. (Some might argue that Angela’s personality was to be an uptight spoilsport in an office otherwise plagued with HR violations, but this is science, not TV criticism.)