Gravy Analytics & Columbia Business School: How Certain Personality Traits Can Protect Individuals from Living in Echo Chambers

Columbia Business School

Academic & Applied Research

The Problem: Concern Over the Negative Impacts of Echo Chambers 

Echo chambers are environments in which people encounter only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own. The problem with echo chambers is that they reinforce existing views while limiting exposure to alternative ideas. This can limit a person’s viewpoint on any topic–whether it is political or not. While social media is typically thought of as the source of many echo chambers, Sandra Matz, Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, hypothesized that an individual’s personality traits could also play a role in their receptiveness to new ideas. 

Although it’s been theorized that people with the personality trait of Openness value diversity of opinion more than others (something that could protect them from echo chambers), there was little empirical evidence to support this idea, so Professor Matz sought to develop a way to investigate and prove this.
To do so, Professor Matz wanted to measure how psychologically diverse people’s interests are based on their everyday activities. Professor Matz needed the right datasets to gain real-world insight into participants’ interests, and she determined that GPS-tracked event attendance data would be an ideal way to gain this insight.

The Solution: Event Attendance Data via Gravy Visitations Data-as-a-Service

Professor Matz worked with Gravy Analytics to obtain event attendance data, compiled from the location signals of mobile devices. Through its Visitations Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) product, Gravy shared a dataset of mobile devices opted into location services that were observed at various events across the country that took place at commercial locations of interest, such as entertainment venues, sports arenas, restaurants, gyms, and more. 

With Gravy’s Visitations data, Professor Matz was able to demonstrate that people rating highly in the personality trait of Openness are more likely to have a psychologically diverse set of interests than their traditional counterparts. Through her research study, Professor Matz determined how personality traits can expose or protect individuals from echo chambers and strengthened the understanding of the personality trait of Openness. 

“Gravy’s Visitations data played a critical role in my research study. The data enabled me to empirically test a relationship that many psychologists could only theorize before: Open-minded people have interests that are more psychologically diverse than those of their more conventional counterparts. Now that this idea has been supported by real data, others in the research community and I can further explore how to protect individuals from falling victim to personal echo chambers.”
Sandra Matz, Associate Professor of Business

Want to learn more?

Download the full case study to learn how insights from Gravy’s event attendance data helped Professor Matz’s research.

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