Scroll through your Facebook feed and what do you see?

Ignoring the current and hopefully temporary barrage of highly partisan election posts (just stop, people! You're not swaying anyone), most content that gets widely shared seems to fall into two broad categories.

Obviously, the first of those is cute cat pictures (and their close relatives, adorable goats, cuddly sloths, etc.) The second is inspirational content about heroic acts, awe-inspiring scientific discoveries, or wise quotes (though science suggests you should definitely think twice about whether that "deep" quote actually makes sense before you share it.)

Social media proves that humans are incredibly drawn to these two types of content, but recent research shows that which one specifically you prefer can reveal a lot about your personality.

Are you a cute cat person or a wise quote person?

That's according to the preliminary findings of Sophie Janicke, a professor of media psychology at Chapman University, and colleagues, which she recently shared on the UC Berkeley Greater Good blog. These results are yet to be peer reviewed and published (though Greater Good is a reputable academic organization), so take the following with a grain of salt and  in the playful spirit in which its intended. Here, in essence, are the team's results:

People attracted to moving and meaningful media scored high on a specific set of personality traits, like tending to reflect about themselves, enjoying effortful cognitive activities (like puzzles), being attuned with their emotions, seeking situations that are emotional in nature, and searching for meaning in life.

In contrast, people who preferred purely pleasurable content had a greater tendency to be optimistic, spontaneous, playful, and humorous. People drawn to meaningful media content, perhaps unfortunately for them, did not exhibit these same traits, like playfulness, at all, or they displayed it to only a minor degree.

There also is apparently a gender divide. You might think it's mostly women who go in for kitten pictures, but you'd be wrong. The data shows that, in fact, it's sharing of inspirational content which seems to skew female. This type of post also tends to appeal more to older folks.

Janicke also points out that her team isn't the only one trying to suss out who exactly likes kitten pictures. (Yes, I will never ceased to be surprised to what people get paid to research either.). According to work by Indiana University's Jessica Gall Myrick, "if you prefer funny cat videos over altruistic ones, you probably like cats [big shock there], spend a lot of time online, and have a high propensity for kindness, sympathy, warmth and consideration. You might also be more shy and anxious," she explains.

Myrick's work also suggests that people feel energized, happier and more hopeful after viewing cute animal videos, which entirely matches my personal experience.

Let's sum up, shall we?

So what's the takeaway of this entertaining line of research? If you like cat videos, the latest science suggests you are warm, kind, funny, possibly a little shy, and probably a bit of a tech addict. Meanwhile, if you can't resist sharing tear-jerker or "deep" content, chances are greater that you're older, female, more serious, more of a reflective deep thinker, and a bit of an emotion junky.

Is the world going to stop turning in shock and awe at these findings? No, probably not. But like this kitten chilling in a watermelon, they just might make you a bit more happy and energized. So enjoy! (I refer fans of inspiration quotes to my colleague Jeff Haden to get their kicks.)

Are you on team kitten pic or team inspirational quote?

Published on: Sep 23, 2016
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