What's in an Adjective? An Explorative Study of Meaning Systems

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



In this exploratory study, a group of subjects was asked to come up with visible and quantifiable behaviors tied to certain person-descriptive adjectives. Another group of subjects then rated how much different levels of the behaviors would justify the use of each adjective to describe a person, as a cross-validation. The reliability of these ratings was excellent. Associations between adjectives and “their” behaviors were very strong and largely specific. The shapes of associations were usually linear or negatively accelerated, which is highly relevant for the formal modeling of person perception processes. Researchers aiming to measure personality in terms of behavior should make more systematic use of the knowledge that competent users of the natural language already share in this regard.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-159
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Individual Differences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2020

External IDs

Scopus 85078095798



  • shared meaning, person perception, natural language, personality, behavior

Library keywords