1. Study suggests personality may drive purchasing of luxury goods

    September 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University College London press release:

    People who are extraverted and on low incomes buy more luxury goods than their introverted peers to compensate for the experience of low financial status, finds new UCL research.

    The study, published today in Psychological Science, used real life spending data from UK bank accounts to investigate the spending habits of richer and poorer people with different personality types.

    People living on a low income often feel low status in society and spend a higher percentage of their money on goods and services that are perceived to have a high status.

    “We’ve shown that personality looks to be an important factor in how people respond to living with limited resources. We hope this new association will help us better understand which people may be likely to engage in behaviour that perpetuates the conditions of financial hardship,” explained Joe Gladstone, study co-author from UCL School of Management.

    Previous research has found that people who are sociable and outgoing care more about their social status than others. The new research shows that when extraverted people have a lower income, they spend proportionately more on status goods than introverts on the same income. At higher incomes, the difference in spending lessens as introverted people buy more luxury goods.

    “It’s clear from our study that an extraverted personality is a driver for low-income individuals purchasing more luxury goods, and this is most likely to compensate for a perceived low social status that isn’t as keenly felt by introverts. We saw very little difference in the spending habits of introverts and extraverts with high incomes,” said Blaine Landis, study co-author from UCL School of Management.

    The study was conducted in collaboration with a UK-based multinational bank. Customers were asked whether they would complete a standard personality questionnaire, and to consent to their responses being matched anonymously for research purposes with their bank transaction data.

    The study analysed thousands of transactions from 718 customers over 12 months. The results took into account other factors that could influence spending habits, such as age, sex, employment status and whether the customers had children. Cash spending was also taken into account.

    Each person’s spending data were sorted into a number of spending categories from one (very low status) to five (very high status). High-status categories (i.e., those with average scores of four or five) included foreign air travel, golf, electronics and art institutions, whereas low-status categories (i.e., those with average scores of two or one) included pawnbrokers, salvage yards and discount stores.

    The team found the interaction between income and extraversion in predicting spending on luxury goods is significant and emphasize that while this useful in understanding the relationship, further research is needed to see whether the relationship is causal and whether the results are representative of the UK population as a whole.


  2. When hoping to be seen as powerful, consumers prefer wider faces on watches, cars

    September 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kansas press release:

    People are typically averse to wider human faces because they elicit fears of being dominated. However, consumers might like wider faces on some products they buy, such as watches or cars, when they want to be seen in a position of power in certain situations, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas marketing researcher.

    “When consumers are motivated to dominate others, or when they use the product in public, their liking will be heightened toward high-ratio product faces,” said Ahreum Maeng, assistant professor in marketing at the KU School of Business.

    Maeng’s study she co-authored with Pankaj Aggarwal, professor of marketing at the university of Toronto, was published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research, one of the leading journals on marketing academic research.

    In five experiments, respondents examined photos of human faces that varied from low width-to-height ratio (narrow) to ones with a higher ratio (wider) to establish the perception of dominance when seeing higher-ratio faces. The researchers also had respondents view photos of products that might have a design resembling a human face, such as watch and clock faces and automobiles, from low to high width-to-height ratios.

    “These kinds of things are automatically going on in people’s brains,” Maeng said. “When we see those shapes resembling a human face in the product design, we can’t help but perceive it that way.”

    Researchers have established that people are evolutionarily adapted to read facial cues, especially those signaling dominance, and the width-to-height ratio of face is a cue to attribute dominance to the face. In the notion of anthropomorphism, scholars have found people often attribute human traits to non-human entities, such as products.

    In addition, the researchers had participants view the images while they thought about different scenarios, such as preparing to encounter either an old high school bully or a former sweetheart at a 10-year-old high school reunion or a business trip that might require a difficult negotiation.

    Their main finding was that when people felt they were in a situation where they might want to be perceived as dominant — such as that business negotiation or when seeing an old bully at a high-school reunion — people were inclined to select the wider product design for a watch or car they might be renting for the trip.

    Maeng said this differs from how people tend to see dominance in the human face. They typically become averse to a higher width-to-height ratio because they feel threatened or intimated.

    “But when it comes to a dominant-looking product face, they really like it,” she said. “It’s probably because people view the product as part of themselves and they would think, ‘it’s my possession. I have control over it when I need it, and I can demonstrate my dominance through the product.”

    In scenarios where participants did not feel the need to project any dominance, such as a more laid-back time with their children or family, the width-to-height ratio of the products became less important, the researchers found.

    Maeng said the findings have important implications for marketers of products that might resemble a human face, such as watches with a circular face and cars. They found consumers’ preferences for dominant-looking product faces is not the same as people’s preference simply for luxury or expensive items.

    Also, typically, product-design efforts have focused on visual aesthetics and ergonomics, an assumption that beauty and functionality covers the entire canvas of product design. However, more recent contrary findings by marketing researchers suggest that product design can signal a specific personality trait about the product.

    Maeng said this type of preference means that manufacturers and marketers would be able to charge higher prices for products that have wider faces. They have already found a positive relationship in examining 2013 prices of automobiles based on the width-to-height ratio, and their study likely supports those types of decisions.

    “Brand managers and product designers may be particularly interested in these findings,” the researchers said, “because a simple design feature, namely product face ratio, can have marketplace impact — by significantly improving the company’s bottom line.”


  3. Personifying places can boost travel intentions

    September 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    People who see animals as people and assign human traits to non-human objects are more likely to travel to destinations that are presented as being human-like, according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research.

    Dr Kate Letheren, Professor Brett Martin and Dr Hyun Seung Jin, from QUT Business School, found that writing about a destination as if it were human could boost its appeal as a travel destination.

    The research, published in Tourism Management, looked at personality dimensions and the impact on destination choices.

    Participants were shown a travel advertisement for either Paris or Rome. Half of the participants saw an ad where the destination was personified, referring to the city as “she,” while the other half saw an ad that referred to the city as “it.”

    “One of the ads used typical copy for a travel destination advertisement, for example, facts about the city and its attractions. The other used language that humanised the destination, like ‘Paris welcomes you’,” Dr Letheren said.

    “We found people higher in anthropomorphic traits were more likely to respond with feel-good emotions and have a positive view of the destination after reading the personified ad.

    “This suggests people with this trait who see human characteristics in tourism destinations are more likely to want to visit those destinations.”

    The researchers said that levels of anthropomorphic traits varied by person, but some common examples of anthropomorphism at work include people assigning human emotions to a pet dog or referring to a car or ship as “she.”

    Professor Martin said it was a normal tactic for destination and major event marketers to try to make a connection with consumers.

    “Humanising a destination or event can help place it in a positive light and give the audience a warm, fuzzy feeling. This is why cute cartoon animals are often chosen as mascots for the Olympics, for example.

    “Large sums of money are spent on campaigns to try to attract tourists and destinations need to appear warm and welcoming.

    “Tourism campaigns often focus on attracting specific demographics, for example Chinese tourists or luxury holiday-makers, and our research shows that if you have a tourist who naturally humanises, you can tailor the message to appeal to this aspect of their personality.

    “If you can successfully identify what traits people have, you can send them customised messages. Ten to 20 years ago that wasn’t possible, but now it is.”


  4. Who learns foreign language better, introverts or extroverts?

    July 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) press release:

    Extrovert Chinese students learning English as a second language are likely to perform better in speaking and reading, but less proficient in listening than their introvert counterparts, according to a study published in Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (JSSH).

    In Chinese culture, students are expected to listen to their teachers attentively, as opposed to Western culture where class participation is encouraged. The Chinese culture is influenced by Confucian values, including collectivism, socialisation for achievement, and high acceptance of power and authority. Some studies have suggested that such introversion hinders Chinese students’ ability to learn English as a second language.

    However, it is unclear if a relationship exists between extroversion-introversion traits and English language proficiency for nonnative speakers. In an ongoing debate, psychologists argue introverts are less susceptible to distraction and have better long-term memory, while linguists claim the extroverts’ sociable and outgoing attitudes, as well as their high tolerance to risk, help with learning a foreign language.

    Study of this topic that involves Chinese students based in Asia is lacking, explains Assistant Professor Shahcla Zarfar at the University of Central Punjab, India.

    Zarfar and colleagues examined whether Chinese students are introverted by nature, whether extrovert-introvert tendencies affected English language proficiency among Chinese students in India, and how these traits influenced language learning.

    The researchers analysed the data from 145 Chinese exchange students aged between 18 and 21 at VIT University, Vellore, India. The data comprised of English language test scores and two types of questionnaires — one asked about personality and linguistic information, and the other only about their personality.

    They found the majority of the students were introverts (47%), followed by extroverts (35%), and ‘no tendency towards the extroversion-introversion traits’ (18%). The team confirmed a significant relationship between the two personality traits and English language proficiency, with higher scores in speaking, reading and overall language proficiency for extrovert students. There was little difference in writing between the two groups.

    However, surprisingly, the researchers found introvert students were better listeners than extrovert students, contradicting some claims that academic excellence relies solely on the extrovert tendency. They speculate that this might indicate introverts’ ability to focus more effectively on listening than extroverts.

    The researchers suggest that instructors should adjust their teaching strategies depending on different personality traits among students learning English as a second language. Further studies should involve a bigger sample group, and investigate why introvert students perform better than their peers in some conditions.


  5. Study suggests people whose minds wander are less likely to stick to long-term goals

    June 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Waterloo press release:

    People whose minds tend to wander are less likely to stick to their long-term goals, according to new research led by the University of Waterloo.

    The research found that those who could sustain focus in day-to-day life were more likely to report maintaining perseverance and passion in their long-term objectives.

    “Those who often can’t keep their minds on their tasks — such as thinking about weekend plans instead of listening to the lecturer in class — tend to have more fleeting aspirations,” said Brandon Ralph, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in psychology at Waterloo. “We’ve shown that maintaining concentration over hours and days predicts passion over longer periods.”

    The researchers’ findings resulted from three separate studies. In the first two studies, surveys measured the mind wandering, inattention and grittiness of 280 participants. In the third study, 105 post-secondary students were asked to report on their mind-wandering habits during class and then fill out questionnaires to measure their grittiness.

    Grit is a personality trait involving sustained interest and effort toward long-term goals and is purported to predict success in careers and education independent of other traits, including intelligence.

    Next steps in the research involve determining if people who would like to mitigate the impacts of mind wandering can do so with mindfulness training exercises, such as meditation.

    “It’s clear that mind wandering is related to the ability to focus in the moment as well as on long-term goals,” said Ralph. “As we move forward in this work, we’d like to see if practices such as meditation can assist people in achieving their goals.”

    The study, done in cooperation with researchers at Sheridan College, appears in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology.


  6. Study tests value of perspective-taking training in understanding other people’s mental states

    May 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    Through targeted training, people can be guided to develop a better inner awareness about their own mental states, and to have a better understanding of the mental state of others. This is because the better people understand themselves, the more easily they can think themselves in other people’s shoes. Such training therefore ultimately helps us deal with current global challenges, says Anne Böckler of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science and Julius Maximilians University Würzburg in Germany. She is the lead author of a study in Springer’s Journal of Cognitive Enhancement which looked at the influence a three-month contemplative training course had on a group of adults.

    During the three months, various methods were used to teach two groups of 80 and 81 participants, aged between20 and 55 years, how to develop their perspective taking skills. The training was inspired by the Internal Family Systems model which views the self as being composed of different complex inner parts or subpersonalities, each with their own defining set of behaviours, thoughts and emotions. Participants were taught to identify and classify their own inner parts, as well as those of others. They explored how being identified with different inner parts such as their caring, managing or pleasure parts affects their everyday experiences.

    The results revealed that after the training, the participants could easily identify prototypical inner parts such as “the inner manager” or “the inner child” in their own personalities. The degree to which participants improved their understanding of themselves — as reflected in the number of different inner parts they could identify — went hand in hand with how much participants improved in terms of their own flexibility and being able to accurately infer and understand the mental state of others. The more negative inner parts they could identify, the better their awareness of other people’s frame of mind became thanks to the training.

    “There is a close link between getting better in understanding oneself and improvement in social intelligence,” says Böckler.

    The realisation that people who learn to better identify negative aspects of themselves are better able to understand others has interesting implications for the ever-changing world we live in. “This insight could prove important in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where taking the view of others, especially those from different cultures or with different religious backgrounds, becomes ever more difficult — and ever more necessary,” adds Böckler.

    The study suggests that work on inner parts and training to flexibly take perspective on self-related inner mental states holds promise in therapeutic as well as non-clinical settings aiming to foster psychological health and social intelligence. It also has value for fundamental research in the fields of personality and social psychology and social neurosciences.


  7. Study suggests moviegoers’ taste in movies is idiosyncratic and at odds with critics’ preferences

    May 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    Our taste in movies is notably idiosyncratic, and not linked to the demographic traits that studios target, finds new study on film preferences. The work also shows that moviegoers’ ratings are not necessarily in line with those of critics.

    “What we find enjoyable in movies is strikingly subjective — so much so that the industry’s targeting of film goers by broad demographic categories seems off the mark,” says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Projections.

    “Critics may be adept at evaluating films, but that doesn’t mean their assessments will accurately predict how much the public will like what they see,” adds co-author Jake Whritner, a graduate of the Cinema Studies Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently part of the Cognitive and Data Science Lab at Rutgers University-Newark.

    Over the past century, filmmakers have sought to control viewers’ attention through different editing and shooting techniques, with the assumption that the audience will respond in the same way.

    However, while neural and attentional processing has been extensively examined, the level of agreement in the appraisal of movies among viewers has not been studied. Similarly, while past research has analyzed the relationship between reviews and box-office success as well as agreement among critics for films, none have explored agreement between critics and the general public.

    To address these questions, the researchers considered more than 200 major motion pictures, taking into account popularity, financial success, and critics’ reviews. They then surveyed over 3,000 participants, asking them to give a rating of how much they liked each of the films in the sample that they had previously seen. The researchers also asked participants to provide demographic information (e.g., age, gender) and whether they consider movie critics’ recommendations in choosing which movies to see.

    Finally, Wallisch and Whritner gathered reviews from 42 publicly accessible critics or rating sites (e.g., IMDb) for each of the films in the sample.

    The results generally showed low levels of correlation in movie preferences among study participants. However, there were some patterns. As the number of jointly seen films increased, so did the correlation of the ratings for such films — at least up to a point. When the number of ratings for a given film reached between 100 and 120, correlation grew to its highest point — but as this number continued to increase, correlation for that film’s ratings began to dip, before spiking up again at around 180 commonly seen films.

    Looking at demographics, the survey showed greater agreement in film ratings among male participants than among females — and this difference between genders was statistically significant. However, agreement among both men and women in films was relatively low. There was also little correlation between movie ratings and age — however, because the overall sample skewed younger, the significance of this result is limited. In general, neither gender nor age had much of an effect on inter-subjective agreement. Overall, the low inter-subjective agreement could account for all the vehement disagreements between people on whether or not a given movie was good: on average, one could expect a 1.25-star difference in disagreement on a scale from 0 to 4 stars.

    Turning to correlations with movie critics, the connection between the ratings of critics and any given participant was no better than the average correlation between participants. Even a critic as well regarded as the late Roger Ebert did no better in predicting how well someone would like a movie than a randomly picked participant in the sample. In contrast, critics agreed with each other relatively strongly. In fact, the best predictor of a critic’s response to a film was that of other critics while the best predictor of a non-critics’ response were the aggregated evaluations of other non-critics such as those on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) — but not the aggregated ratings of critics such as Rotten Tomatoes. So it is not the aggregation of ratings per se that improves predictability, but aggregation of non-critic ratings.

    “Something about being a critic seems to make the recommendations of critics unsuitable for predicting the movie taste of regular people,” the authors conclude. “This study is the first to quantify this in an adequately powered fashion, and it helps to explain why people often perceive critics to be out of touch.

    “There are some people in our sample who are ‘superpredictors’ — they perform as well as the best aggregated non-critic ratings when it comes to predicting average non-critics will like. Short of these exceptional predictors, if someone seeks recommendations about what to see, their best bet is to either consult sites that aggregate individual judgements, or to find other individuals or critics with similar tastes.”


  8. Study looks at how personalities change under the influence of alcohol

    by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science press release:

    People typically report substantive changes to their personality when they become intoxicated, but observations from outsiders suggest less drastic differences between “sober” and “drunk” personalities, according to research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    “We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them,” says psychological scientist Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri, St. Louis — Missouri Institute of Mental Health. “Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of the Five Factor Model of personality, but extraversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions.”

    Winograd and colleagues speculate that this discrepancy may come down to inherent differences in point of view:

    “We believe both the participants and raters were both accurate and inaccurate — the raters reliably reported what was visible to them and the participants experienced internal changes that were real to them but imperceptible to observers,” she explains.

    The idea that we transform into different people when we’re under the influence is a popular one. And systematic differences in an individual’s sober behavior and their drunken behaviors can even inform clinical determinations about whether someone has a drinking problem. But the science on “drunk personality” as a concept is less clear. In Winograd’s previous studies, participants reliably reported that their personality changes when they imbibe, but experimental evidence for this kind of global change was lacking.

    Winograd and colleagues decided to bring the question into the lab, where they could carefully calibrate alcohol consumption and closely monitor individual behavior. They recruited 156 participants, who completed an initial survey gauging their typical alcohol consumption and their perceptions of their own “typical sober” personality and “typical drunk” personality.

    Later, the participants came to the lab in friend groups of 3 or 4, where the researchers administered a baseline breathalyzer test and measured the participants’ height and weight. Over the course of about 15 minutes, each participant consumed beverages — some drank Sprite, while others consumed individually-tailored vodka and Sprite cocktails designed to produce a blood alcohol content of about .09.

    After a 15-minute absorption period, the friends worked through a series of fun group activities — including discussion questions and logic puzzles — intended to elicit a variety of personality traits and behaviors.

    The participants completed personality measures at two points during the lab session. And outside observers used video recordings to complete standardized assessments of each individual’s personality traits.

    As expected, participants’ ratings indicated change in all five of the major personality factors. After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism).

    The observers, on the other hand, noted fewer differences across the sober and intoxicated participants’ personality traits. In fact, observer ratings indicated reliable differences in only one personality factor: extraversion. Specifically, participants who had consumed alcohol were rated higher on three facets of extraversion: gregariousness, assertiveness, and levels of activity.

    Given that extraversion is the most outwardly visible personality factor, it makes sense that both parties noted differences in this trait, the researchers argue.

    They acknowledge, however, that they cannot rule out other influences — such as participants’ own expectations of their drunk personality — that may have contributed to the discrepancy in ratings.

    “Of course, we also would love to see these findings replicated outside of the lab — in bars, at parties, and in homes where people actually do their drinking,” says Winograd.

    “Most importantly, we need to see how this work is most relevant in the clinical realm and can be effectively included in interventions to help reduce any negative impact of alcohol on peoples’ lives,” she concludes.


  9. Study looks at motivations behind participation in extreme sports

    May 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    Researchers have debunked the myth that extreme sportsmen and women are adrenalin junkies with a death wish, according to a new study.

    The research has been published in the latest edition of Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research and Practice by QUT Adjunct Professor Eric Brymer, who is currently based at Leeds Beckett University in the UK, and QUT Professor Robert Schweitzer.

    Professors Brymer and Schweitzer said extreme sports were leisure activities in which a mismanaged mistake or accident could result in death, such as BASE jumping, big wave surfing and solo rope free climbing.

    “Extreme sports have developed into a worldwide phenomenon and we are witnessing an unprecedented interest in and engagement with these activities,” Professor Brymer said.

    “While participant numbers in many traditional team and individual sports such as golf, basketball and racket sports seem to have declined over the past decade, participant numbers in extreme sports have surged, making it a multi-million dollar industry.”

    Professor Brymer said until now there had been a gross misunderstanding of what motivates people to take part in extreme sports, with many writing it off as an activity for adrenalin junkies.

    “Our research has shown people who engage in extreme sports are anything but irresponsible risk-takers with a death wish. They are highly trained individuals with a deep knowledge of themselves, the activity and the environment who do it to have an experience that is life enhancing and life changing,” he said.

    “The experience is very hard to describe in the same way that love is hard to describe. It makes the participant feel very alive where all senses seem to be working better than in everyday life, as if the participant is transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential.

    “For example, BASE jumpers talk about being able to see all the colours and nooks and crannies of the rock as they zoom past at 300km/h, or extreme climbers feel like they are floating and dancing with the rock. People talk about time slowing down and merging with nature.”

    Professor Schweitzer said understanding motivations for extreme sports were important to understanding humans.

    “Far from the traditional risk-focused assumptions, extreme sports participation facilitates more positive psychological experiences and express human values such as humility, harmony, creativity, spirituality and a vital sense of self that enriches everyday life,” Professor Schweitzer said.

    He said because extreme sports participants found it hard to put their experiences into words, the research project had taken a new approach to understanding the data.

    “So rather than a theory based approach which may make judgements that don’t reflect the lived experience of extreme sports participants, we took a phenomenological approach to ensure we went in with an open mind,” he said.

    “This allowed us to focus on the lived-experience of extreme sport with the goal of explaining themes that are consistent with participants’ experience.

    “By doing this we were able to, for the first time, conceptualise such experiences as potentially representing endeavours at the extreme end of human agency, that is making choices to engage in activity which may in certain circumstances lead to death.

    “However, such experiences have been shown to be affirmative of life and the potential for transformation.

    “Extreme sport has the potential to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness that are at once powerful and meaningful.

    “These experiences enrich the lives of participants and provide a further glimpse into what it means to be human.”


  10. Personality factors are best defense against losing your job to a robot

    May 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Houston press release:

    Worried robots will take your job? Researchers say people who are more intelligent and who showed an interest in the arts and sciences during high school are less likely to fall victim to automation.

    Later educational attainment mattered, but researchers said the findings highlight the importance of personality traits, intelligence and vocational interests in determining how well people fare in a changing labor market. The work was published this week in the European Journal of Personality.

    “Robots can’t perform as well as humans when it comes to complex social interactions,” said Rodica Damian, assistant professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Houston and lead author of the study. “Humans also outperform machines when it comes to tasks that require creativity and a high degree of complexity that is not routine. As soon as you require flexibility, the human does better.”

    Researchers used a dataset of 346,660 people from the American Institutes of Research, which tracked a representative sample of Americans over 50 years, looking at personality traits and vocational interests in adolescence, along with intelligence and socioeconomic status. It is the first study to look at how a variety of personality and background factors predict whether a person will select jobs that are more (or less) likely to be automated in the future.

    “We found that regardless of social background, people with higher levels of intelligence, higher levels of maturity and extraversion, higher interests in arts and sciences … tended to select (or be selected) into less computerizable jobs 11 and 50 years later,” they wrote.

    In addition to Damian, the researchers included Marion Spengler of the University of Tuebingen and Brent W. Roberts of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Damian said the findings suggest traditional education may not be fully equipped to address upcoming changes in the labor market, although she acknowledged the educational system has changed since the research subjects were in school in the 1960s.

    “Perhaps we should consider training personality characteristics that will help prepare people for future jobs,” she said.

    The researchers found that every 15-point increase in IQ predicted a 7 percent drop in the probability of one’s job being computerized, the equivalent of saving 10.19 million people from losing their future careers to computerization if it were extrapolated across the entire U.S. population. Similarly, an increase of one standard deviation in maturity or in scientific interests — equal to an increase of 1 point on a 5-point scale, such as moving from being indifferent to scientific activities to liking them fairly well — across the U.S. population would each be equivalent to 2.9 million people avoiding a job loss to computerization.

    While IQ is not easily changed, a solution could be to find effective interventions to increase some personality traits — doing well in social interactions, for example, or being industrious — or interest in activities related to the arts and sciences, Damian said.

    Machine learning and big data will allow the number of tasks that machines can perform better than humans to increase so rapidly that merely increasing educational levels won’t be enough to keep up with job automation, she said. “The edge is in unique human skills.”

    Still, that can correlate with more education, and the researchers say an across-the-board increase in U.S. education levels could mean millions fewer jobs at risk. Targeting at-risk groups would yield significant benefits, she said.

    And while skeptics question whether the labor market will be able to absorb millions of higher skilled workers, Damian looks at it differently.

    “By preparing more people, at least more people will have a fighting chance,” she said.