The Personality Space of Cartoon Characters

Character Personality Surveys

We wanted to pin down the “space” of cartoon characters. Lots of dichotomies came to mind: Are they adventurous or mischievous? Helpful or adversarial? Outgoing or timid? It’s easy to list a bunch of traits but harder to put together a cohesive set of dimensions that capture the range of possible personalities. Fortunately people have worked on this exact problem for a long time, trying to measure and describe human personalities.

Crowdsourcing Personality Measurement

Obviously we can’t get these characters to take these personality tests for themselves, but it’s not difficult for people to answer questions on their behalf. You could even answer these questions about characters you haven’t even watched before, based on your first impression of their appearance!

We charged 25 cents for this task. Some Turkers emailed us to say how much they enjoyed it!
Big Five profile for Angelica from Rugrats.

Mapping the Characters into the Big Five

What’s neat about having measured personalities for all these characters is that we can flip the script and use them to describe the personality scale! Shiu Pei designed this Big Five visualization:

Our familiarity with cartoon characters can help us understand the original scale.

Clusters of Characters

We ran a hierarchical clustering algorithm over responses to the 44 questions to see if there were natural groupings.

t-SNE layout of character personality space.

Your Most Similar Characters

If you’re interested, I can send you the cartoon characters with the most similar personality to yours! Take this Big Five survey and include your email address and I’ll send you the most similar and dissimilar characters to you! For example, here’s my report:

I was hoping to end up being similar to Milhouse.

Whats Next?

The space of cartoons. We didn’t accomplish our goal of understanding what groups of characters make successful shows. We can build on this measurement technique by treating shows as groups of character personalities and then trying to visualize and describe the space of shows.

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Research Scientist at Lyft. Keywords: Experiments, Causal Inference, Statistics, Machine Learning, Economics.

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Sean J. Taylor

Sean J. Taylor

Research Scientist at Lyft. Keywords: Experiments, Causal Inference, Statistics, Machine Learning, Economics.