Psychology in Advertising

What's In a Psychological Profile?

Business psychologists use profiles as a tool to answer questions about buyer behavior and worker-job congruence.

Have you ever watched a crime-tv show where the good guys create a “profile” of the bad guy? This profile usually represents a set of habitual and typical appearances, behaviors, traits, and even preferences. The idea is that once they know the psychology of the bad guy, they can predict their behavior… and hopefully catch them. This isn’t the only way that profiles are used. 

Business psychologists use profiles as a tool to answer questions about buyer behavior and worker-job congruence, just as criminal psychologists use profiling to answer questions about criminal behavior (Douglas and Burgess, 1986). 

What Is A Psychological Profile?

Psychological profiles are the—user friendly, graphical—results of multiple psychological tests, including their subsets and scales. Psychologists use a battery of tests and methods to gather information on a group of people, studying their attitudes, buying behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Louis Leon Thurnstone pioneered the Thurstone scale in 1928, which served as the first proper technique for measuring mental attitudes through acceptance or rejection of opinions. 

The methods  for obtaining information about personality generally rely on questioning, whether in the form of direct testing—such as in the MMPI where you answer true-false questions—or indirect testing—such as projective tests, like the Rorschach. All of these types of tests ultimately illuminate the rich psychology of the individual, something that is not easily observable in its entirety. 

For example, the revised NEO Personality Inventory—which measures the traits of the five factor model of personality (aka the Big Five): Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism—returns profiles of traits and related subcategories. The Positive Emotions dimension of Extraversion shows the extent that a person experiences positive emotion, a facet that has been linked to psychological health (Bleidorn et. al., 2020). Many of these traits are correlated to an individual’s health and wellness, lifestyle, and even the workplace. 

Consider the personality dimension of Neuroticism, which has often been linked to several health issues. High Neuroticism in teens has been shown to correlate with the development of anxiety and depression disorders (Zinbarg et. al., 2016). In terms of lifestyle and work life, people that score high in trait Extraversion are known to be outwardly social, while measures of personality have been used as predictors of performance for occupations (Hogan and Hogan, 1996). All of these measured data-points are psychometrics, measuring (to some degree) a person’s ability, attitude, knowledge, and personality traits. 

If you wanted to take a look at  someone’s personality, how would you do it? An artist might turn towards a self-portrait or an abstract composition. A psychologist would turn to the profile; compiling and visually organizing data from several sources. A profile isn’t the entire story of the person that took the tests, but they can tell you a lot about the person with just a few glances at the report. 

Profile Analysis

Profile analysis can compare an individual’s profile over time, as well as to other individuals' and even groups of profiles. Once data points have been collected, the scores from each test/subscale are visualized in highs and lows. Scores are typically arranged according to their similarity. 

Different statistical methods can be used to target these core patterns. For example, the Modal Profile Analysis (MPA) targets profile shape across multiple tests, while Euclidean distance formulas target “profile elevation and scatter” (Frisby and Kim, 2008, p. 2). 

These graphical data plots (i.e., visualizing the data) enable the researcher to see patterns of behavior, like traits and tendencies (APA, 2022). Researchers look for patterns like elevation—the average value of the indices—scatter—the differences from one measure to another—the shape of the graph—the peaks and valleys of scores determined by the order of the measures selected—and the statistical similarity between profiles (Fiske and Adkins, 2017). People can then be classified into different profiles based on their indicators, which are then related to known predictors and outcomes (Spurk et. al., 2020). 

Classifying Profiles From Social Media Data

Research has demonstrated the efficacy of using social media to identify personality attributes (Kosinski et. al., 2013). Today, social media can be used to match the ideal occupation for a person based on their online activity. This job congruence between personality and the occupation is thought to be beneficial for both the hiree and the hiring company. 

Kern et. al. used publicly available Twitter information to create digital psychological profiles using linguistic analysis (2019). The results of the personality analysis were then compared to the professions of the participants. Using the Big Five personality dimensions, the researchers found that software programmers and elite chemistry researchers scored higher in Openness to experience, but lower in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, while tennis players scored the opposite (e.g., more agreeable and conscientious but less open). The results confirmed that digital personality profiles align with different occupations. Occupations with similar skills have greater alignment. 

For example, the researchers noted school principals and superintendents were often confused for one another, as were data scientists and software engineers (Kern et. al., 2019). These jobs seem similar at face value, so their coincidence is no great surprise, however the researchers also found  similarities between nurse managers and box office managers/campaigners based on the job’s required skills. Both nurse managers and box office managers/campaigners work with people to manage relationships in high stress situations. These results—based on psychological profiles—could help people find alternative careers outside of their typical area. 

Inkblot’s Psychological Profiles

Inkblot Analytics psychological profiles can measure an audience’s psychology and teach marketers about what the results mean. Our AI-powered projective tests—which are gamified for your entertainment and enjoyment—are administered through computer or mobile device. A team of PhD interpreters review the results before feeding them into our proprietary algorithm. So what can a mobile version of projective tests like the Rorshach do for marketers? 

Since our data has national benchmarks to compare consumer data to, Inkblot’s psychological profiles help marketers choose the most engaging mediums and messages. For example, if a clothing company uses our projective tests on a group of potential consumers, they can delineate between the types of consumers who love fashion and culture—those fashion loving consumers that enjoy purchasing products based on word of mouth or those who only buy products endorsed by celebrities. Psychological profiles give marketers the ability to map out segments and plan their advertising campaigns accordingly.


American Psychological Association (2022). Personality profile. Apa Dictionary of Psychology. 

Bleidorn, W., Hopwood, C. J., Ackerman, R. A., Witt, E. A., Kandler, C., Riemann, R., Samuel, D. B., & Donnellan, M. B. (2020). The healthy personality from a basic trait perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(6), 1207–1225

Douglas, J. & Burgess, M. (1986). Criminal Profiling - A Viable Investigative Tool Against Violent Crime. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. V. 55(12).  9-13.

Fiske, D., & Adkins, D. (2017). Psychological testing. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Frisby, C. L., & Kim, S. K. (2008). Using Profile Analysis via Multidimensional Scaling (PAMS) to identify core profiles from the WMS-III. Psychological assessment, 20(1), 1–9.

Hogan, R., Hogan, J., & Roberts, B. W. (1996). Personality measurement and employment decisions: Questions and answers. American Psychologist, 51(5), 469–477.

Kern, M. L., McCarthy, P. X., Chakrabarty, D., & Rizoiu, M. A. (2019). Social media-predicted personality traits and values can help match people to their ideal jobs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(52), 26459–26464.

Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., Graepel, T. (2013). Digital records of behavior expose personal traits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(15); 5802-5805. 

Spurk, D., Hirschi, A., Wang, M., Valero, D., & Kauffeld, S. (2020). Latent profile analysis: A review and “how to” guide of its application within vocational behavior research. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 120, Article 103445.

Thurstone, L. "Attitudes Can Be Measured." American Journal of Sociology 33, (1928): 529-554. 

Zinbarg, R. E., Mineka, S., Bobova, L., Craske, M. G., Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Griffith, J. W., Wolitzky-Taylor, K., Waters, A. M., Sumner, J. A., & Anand, D. (2016). Testing a Hierarchical Model of Neuroticism and Its Cognitive Facets: Latent Structure and Prospective Prediction of First Onsets of Anxiety and Unipolar Mood Disorders During 3 Years in Late Adolescence. Clinical Psychological Science, 4(5), 805–824.

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