If You're Easily Swayed By Social Media Influencers, This Study Might Explain Why

by Emily Dixon
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Are you the easily persuaded sort? Does it take a mere 30-second scroll through a few influencers' Instagrams for you to immediately purchase six new lipsticks (hello)? Or is it next to impossible for somebody to persuade you to do something you're not inclined to do? The reason might lie in your personality: according to a new study, how easily influenced you are depends on certain personality traits. See? The lipstick habit is not your fault!

Researchers from Edge Hill University in England, Ulster University in Northern Ireland, and the University of New England in Australia studied the personalities of 316 participants alongside their susceptibility to persuasion, publishing their findings in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. 82 percent of the participants were women, while their average age was about 28. Each participant was asked to complete an online questionnaire, which incorporated three personality measures: the Big Five personality traits, the Type D personality, and the Dark Triad.

The Big Five personality traits, also known as the five factor model, comprise extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, and neuroticism. The Dark Triad, meanwhile, describes three less pleasant traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism (which refers to "manipulativeness, insincerity, and callousness," the researchers said.) The Type D personality, or the distressed personality, involves "avoidance of social environments for fear of rejection, and reluctance to share emotions with others," the researchers explained.

The participants also completed a questionnaire on their susceptibility to persuasion, rating 28 statements on a scale from 1 (completely disagree) to 7 (or completely agree.) The statements fell into one of six categories: reciprocity, the tendency to return a favour or gift; scarcity, the belief that rare things hold more value; authority, the tendency to obey or be influenced by superiors; commitment, the tendency to follow through on promises and plans; consensus, the influence other people's actions or opinions have on your own; and liking, the tendency to ascribe more value to the opinions or actions of people you like.

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Example statements in the persuasion questionnaire included, "I am very inclined to listen to authority figures," "If someone from my social network notifies me about a good book, I tend to read it," and "It is important to me to fit in."

Using the results of the questionnaires, the researchers established three personality types: Fearful, Malevolent, and Socially Apt. Fearful people, who were shy, introverted, and anxious, were more likely to be persuaded by authority figures, and to be influenced by the actions or opinions of others. Socially Apt people (the name is pretty self-explanatory) were more likely to be persuaded to do something if it was "consistent with their beliefs or a prior act," the researchers wrote. Meanwhile, Malevolent people (harsh!) were "less willing to obey authority and less willing to return a favour," the study authors found — but they could be influenced by scarcity.

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Dr Andy Levy, a reader in psychology at Edge Hill University, said in a press release, "Our study sheds some light on how combining personality characteristics can influence human persuasion." He added, "We are now in a position to further explore how our findings can benefit the health, wellbeing and behaviour for many people across varied contexts in society." Wondering why social media influencers can so effectively push your buttons? You might just have your answer.