A new European study on human behaviour suggests that people can be divided into one of four main personality types — with 'Envious' being the most common.
The new research, carried out by a team of researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the universities of Barcelona, Rovira i Virgili and Zaragoza, Spain, presented 541 volunteers with hundreds of social dilemmas and asked them to report on what they would do in each situation.
Participants had to make decisions based on individual or group interests, which would lead to either collaboration or conflict with others.
The decisions also had different consequences depending on what another participant involved decided to do, with Anxo Sánchez, one of the authors of the study explaining, "Those involved are asked to participate in pairs, these pairs change, not only in each round, but also each time the game changes. 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."
The researchers then created a computer algorithm to analyze the responses and classify participants into personality groups based on their behaviour.
The results showed that the majority of the participants — 90 per cent — could be divided into just four basic personality types, Envious, Trusting, Optimistic, and Pessimistic.
The Envious group included the participants who didn't mind what they achieve from a situation, as long as they're better than everyone else; Optimists believe that they and their partner will make the best choice for both of them; Pessimists choose the option which they see as being the lesser of two evils, and the Trusting group included those who are born collaborators who will always cooperate, and who don't mind if they win or lose.
The remaining ten percent fell into a fifth, undefined group, which the algorithm was unable to classify based on behaviour. The researchers believe this suggests that a wide range of smaller subgroups exists, made up of individuals who do not behave in a determined way to the various situations.
As the study uncovered some findings on what motivates an individuals' behaviour based on both their own and the group's interest, the team now believe the findings could be useful for the business management, political reformulation, and according to Sánchez, even making "robots more humanized."
The results can be found published online in the journal Science Advances.