Expressing Personality Through Non-verbal Behaviour in Real-Time Interaction

Maryam Saberi, Steve DiPaola, Ulysses Bernardet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The attribution of traits plays an important role as a heuristic for how we interact with others. Many psychological models of personality are analytical in that they derive a classification from reported or hypothesised behaviour. In the work presented here, we follow the opposite approach: Our personality model generates behaviour that leads an observer to attribute personality characteristics to the actor. Concretely, the model controls all relevant aspects of non-verbal behaviour such as gaze, facial expression, gesture, and posture. The model, embodied in a virtual human, affords to realistically interact with participants in real-time. Conceptually, our model focuses on the two dimensions of extra/introversion and stability/neuroticism. In the model, personality parameters influence both, the internal affective state as well as the characteristic of the behaviour execution. Importantly, the parameters of the model are based on empirical findings in the behavioural sciences. To evaluate our model, we conducted two types of studies. Firstly, passive experiments where participants rated videos showing variants of behaviour driven by different personality parameter configurations. Secondly, presential experiments where participants interacted with the virtual human, playing rounds of the Rock-Paper-Scissors game. Our results show that the model is effective in conveying the impression of the personality of a virtual character to users. Embodying the model in an artificial social agent capable of real-time interactive behaviour is the only way to move from an analytical to a generative approach to understanding personality, and we believe that this methodology raises a host of novel research questions in the field of personality theory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number660895
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Saberi, DiPaola and Bernardet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Behaviour regulation
  • Personality
  • Synthetic Psychology
  • Virtual human
  • non-verbal behaviour


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