What can your online avatar say about your personality? Tons, according to a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

There’s an avatar — a self-representing image in the virtual world, ranging from simple drawings to 3D characters — and then there’s a profile photo or, let’s be serious, a selfie. For the purpose of this study, researchers focused on avatars. They recruited participants for each phase of their study. The first phase asked a set of participants to create a custom avatar, while the second phase asked participants to rate these creations.

Participants in the second phase used five major traits to assess the first phase’s avatars: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Researchers measured for overall accuracy and distinctive accurate, the difference being overall accuracy refers to how well personality can be predicted as while; it’s the sum of distinctive accuracy and otherwise assumptions based on typical norms, Katrina Fong, lead study author, said in a press release.

"For example, if my perception of someone's extraversion closely matches their true level of extraversion, without any reference to how this related to average levels of extraversion, this is overall accuracy," Fong added. "If I can accurately perceive how much more extraverted than average a person is, that involves distinctive accuracy."

The results showed some traits were easier to guess than others. For example, outgoing and sociable participants tended to create avatars that communicate their personality. Neurotic participants, on the other hand, created more obscure avatars. Lastly, participants who were agreeable created avatars that could elicit friendship from other users.

Generally, researchers found avatars created with open eyes, a smile or grin, an oval face, brown hair, and a sweater could elicit friendship from other users. Avatars with the opposite traits, plus a neutral expression, short hair, and sunglasses, were less likely to communicate the intention to be friends. Gender differences are also a factor. Researchers found when rating avatars created by females, participants rated them as more contentious and open regardless of the person who created it.

"One possibility is that digital contexts activate different gender stereotypes than in real-world contexts, but more research is necessary to explore this," Fong said.

In the future, Fong would like to explore what more complex and dynamic avatars have to say about our personalities. For now, we know an online avatar offers accurate insight into its creator’s personality. We're not sure yet if this is good or bad.

Source: Fong, K., Mar, R.A. What Does My Avatar Say About Me?: Inferring Personality From Avatars. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2014.