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Similarity in Personality Traits with Fictional Characters

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3260 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Correlational Study: Similarity in Personality Traits with Fictional Characters: The Simpsons


The way people view the world, their beliefs and how they from self-concept are said to be altered by autobiographical events in reflecting characters traits as of their own (McAdams & Olson, 2010). Because of these views and beliefs, this study investigated the relationship of individual differences from The Big Five, The Dark Triad in alliance with fiction characters from long serving and popular TV series, The Simpsons. Out of 264 participants taking part in the questionnaire through the power of social media, 197 had completed the questionnaire. The study tested for high ratings in associations with fictional characters and these characters were based on the personality traits identified in The Big Five and The Dark Triad. Statistics determined there were relationships and interestingly one had shown a stronger association. These findings suggest that individuals can be influenced and identify themselves associating with fictional characters. Possible suggestions are to carry out further research to strengthen or support this study with more evidence.

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When people watch movies, TV series or fictionally related characters, they share a belief that the real world is the same as fiction; such as evil, wicked characters deserve wickedness and the good, heroism characters deserve righteousness (Flesch, 2007 cited in Black et al., 2018). People in fact have strong beliefs the real world works the same as fiction – people get what they deserve (Appel, 2008 cited in Black et al., 2018). Theoretically, by observing fictional characters individuals can connect with that character or persona; it strengthens their relationship with the character (Cohen, 2016; Igartua, 2010; Janicke & Raney, 2015 cited in Hall, 2017), as they may identify their own personality traits’ along with fictional traits based on The Big Five. The Big Five are personality traits mostly influential in psychology (Costa & McCrae, 1989, 1992; comp. Allport & Odbert, 1936; Cattell, 1943; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985; Norman, 1963 cited in Barańczuk, 2017).

These Big Five personality traits are identified as: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness. Another factor that can be in identified for personality traits is The Dark Triad. They consist of traits such as Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy – people with these traits generally lack in empathy and honesty (Jones & Figueredo, 2013). Machiavellianism is theoretically argued as a long-term focus; narcissism and psychopathy are short-term focus (Jones & Paulhus, 2011a; Miller, Hyatt, Maples-Keller, Carter, & Lynam, 2016).

A study of an online survey was carried out to inspect personality traits and a preference for horror movie genre. Collecting data from a Horror Questionnaire using Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP); Arnett’s Inventory of Sensation Seeking (AISS); Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS); The UCLA Loneliness scale (UCLALS); Dean Social Isolation Scale (DSIS) and Mini International Personality Item Pool (MIPIP). The results determined there were no significant relationship found for horror movie genre preference defined by the groups of personality traits with analyses ranging from a low score [α = .29]) to highest (α = .88) However, findings demonstrated that horror movie preference had an effect by feelings of loneliness (Norman, 2018).

In another study, ‘Pottermore’ online questionnaire fans of British Novelist J.K Rowling’s popular book serious ‘Harry Potter’ could participate to test their personality out off the four Hogwarts school communities or houses (such as Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) to see which community they are suitable for. Fans had completed the personality test consisting of The Big Five, The Dark Triad, need for cognition and need to belong. Results found positive connections between cognition needs and placement in Ravenclaw – this community is known for wit and learning (i.e. openness). The Dark Triad traits were associated with the house of Slytherin (i.e. known for those willing to do what needs to be achieve whatever the cost). This study had hypothesised that Gryffindor, a community known for their bravery to be higher in extraversions and openness, and participants in Hufflepuffs house (loyalty traits) with a need to belong expected to be higher, however, failed to prove the hypotheses (Crysel et al., 2015) and correlated negatively.

Online Pottermore questionnaire had methodological issues: participants were gathered from several social media such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, (N=236) participated. Addition, 44% of those were under the age of 18 years or did not complete the quiz and were not included in the analysis. This raises questions why the quiz had not restricted age limit to 18 years as individuals under the age of 18 are not eligible to give consent. Consequently, the sample size was reduced (N = 132) and of those were 13 men, 113 women, 3 transgender and 3 participants not stating their gender (M = 21.6, SD = 3.9).

For these methodological problems and results of expectations, The Simpsons questionnaire was expected to increase sample size without the loss of dropouts through under-age individuals. Testing data how much people prefer a fictional character based on their own personality traits using The Big Five and The Dark Triad consisting of three identifying, personality traits: extraversion and conscientiousness from The Big Five and psychopathy from The Dark Triad. Given the failed hypotheses in Pottermore – Gryffindor to be higher on extroversion – this study predicts individuals scoring high in extroversion will score high on their likeness in Homer Simpson. This character is very outgoing who enjoys being in social situations with friends and is affectionate towards his wife and children. Ned Flanders has conscientiousness traits – he is good-natured, well-meaning, given his religious views and often organised, driven and goal-oriented. This study hypothesises high conscientiousness traits to be in relation with high ratings in likeness of Ned Flanders. Mr. Burn is an ‘evil mastermind’ who loves seeing people in fear, is very rich, manipulative, lacks empathy and does not show remorse regarding his actions. High ratings in psychopathy level is hypnotised to score high in likeness of Mr. Burns. Expectations of this study is a non-directional correlation between variables



This study had expected a minimum (N = 50). A sample (N = 264) had participated in this study; (N = 67) had not completed the questionnaire or did not give consent; (N = 197) had completed the questionnaire: female (N = 165); male (N = 30); other (N = 2). Age ranged from 18-68 years. Out of 197 participants, 187 had seen the TV show ‘The Simpsons’ with 10 to have never seen it. Participants were recruited from social media such as Facebook. Other social media could have been shared via those participating but this cannot be an accurate statement without evidence. The survey was shared amongst several pages to increase sample size such as: The British Psychological Society; UoS Psychology Stage One; Psychology Today, Mammas and Babies, Girls Mouth and Mothercare. Participants were not paid for this questionnaire – they had volunteered in taking part.


Measuring correlated data between variables: personality traits (1) and character ratings (2). Personality traits had three levels: conscientiousness, extroversion and psychopathy; character ratings had three levels; Homer Simpson, Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns.


To gather data, this study had used Qualtrics to design a multiple-choice questionnaire. Participants were noted who conducted the study and what the questionnaire was about but not given the rationale. An option whether they consent to taking part in the study (yes or no) and were informed that they have the right to withdraw at anytime if they felt uncomfortable answering questions. If they had any issues, emails were provided for contact. Procedure would last around 20 minutes if completed. Simple questions such as age, gender, have you seen the fictional show The Simpsons, yes or no answer. Brief description of character was given using a scoring rate system from 1-10, 1 being low and 10 being high on how much they like the fictional character. The three levels of personality traits questions (participants unaware of what they were based on) had 12 questions each with an option of five choices: strongly disagree/disagree/neither disagree/agree/agree/strongly agree. Data was gathered from the questionnaire for 20 days.


Measuring data with a parametric test using Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient: Homer Simpson – extraversion; Ned Flanders – conscientiousness; Mr. Burns – psychopathy. Statistics determined there was a significance and positive relationship between the two variables in all levels as correlations shown in Table 1. However, the relationship in all levels of variables bar one was extremely low. Interestingly, psychopathy traits in association to Mr. Burns showed a low-to-moderate relationship with a very strong significance (r 329 -. p=.001). Homer Simpson associated with extraversion correlated a low significance (r 198 -. p=.018.), and Ned Flanders associated with conscientiousness in a low significance (r 051 -. p=.024).

Table 1. Correlated relationship between two variables: personality traits and fictional character. (Sig 2-tailed)





Homer Simson

.095 (.617)

.198 (.018)

.036 (.182)

Ned Flanders

.051 (.024)

.094 (.190)

.161 (.479)

Mr. Burns

.065 (.361)

.150 (.036)

.329 (.001)



N = 197



Fiction may be used for individuals to learn about themselves by identifying personality traits which composes them into groups (Gabriel & Young, 2011; Mar & Oatley, 2008). Strong beliefs that same as fiction, people get what they deserve in a way they compose their lives (Appel, 2008 cited in Black et al., 2018). People can compare fictional traits amongst their own personalities. For this, this study hypothesised there would be a relationship between the two variables scoring high on personality traits: conscientiousness, extroversion and psychopathy, and would score high on character ratings: Ned Flanders, Homer Simpsons and Mr. Burns (in this order of hypotheses). When measuring data using Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient, hypotheses (1) determined there was a significance in Homer Simpsons and extraversion p=.018 but correlated r 198 -. Hypotheses (2) – Ned Flanders/conscientiousness (r 051 -. p=.024) correlated low but was significant; hypotheses (3) Mr. Burns in association with psychopathy (r 329 -. p=.001), surprisingly correlated higher than (1) and (2). This study had focused mainly on the hypotheses between extroversion and Homer Simpson given the Pottermore quiz failing to correlate high between Gryffindor and extroversion.

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This study was successful in terms of correlating a relationship in extraversion and Homer Simpsons but failed to strengthen the relationship to high correlated levels. Expectations were to increase sample size and despite a higher number of participants in this study (N =197) and previous study (N = 132), the sample was not greatly different in comparison to Pottermore Quiz. What was noticed in both studies that a greater number of participants were female compared to male, with 84% being female in this study, male 15% and other 1%. This is a methodological flaw of how uneven the balance of gender was. The reasons for this cannot be concrete but some legitimate issues could be that females may enjoy participating in questionnaires or found the study more interesting than men. Although more men could have participated and dropped out, but this was not added to the data. Three of the shared social media pages were of females interests such as Mammas and Babies, Girls Mouth and Mothercare, thus likely to increase the number of female participants. 

Suggestions in further research in this study are to gather a larger sample from a population and to share amongst more social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr and many more. Note increasing the sample size does not necessarily mean findings will still be significantly difference and that the chances would be the same. One method to consider is to make gender balanced – sharing amongst male social media pages, such Men’s Health, Men’s Humor which have 10million and 8million amongst them. Extend the duration of the questionnaire is something that is likely going to increase the amount of people to participate, increasing the awareness of further study to become more popular and gathering more shares.

The use of different fictional characters. For example, an eviller character with stronger psychotherapy traits but also a popular choice of fiction. Because the Simpsons study is not only fictional, they are also non-human form; using a more human-like character could increase strength of correlations as people may identify them associating with more real-life characters. Nevertheless, evidence gathered from this study has strengthen the research that people’s self-concept can be influenced by fictional characters determined by their own personality traits associated with fiction.


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