Inferring psychological traits from spending categories and dynamic consumption patterns

Tovanich, Natkamon; Centellegher, Simone; Bennacer Seghouani, Nacéra; Gladstone, Joe; Matz, Sandra; Lepri, Bruno

In recent years there has been a growing interest in analyzing human behavioral data generated by new technologies. One type of digital footprint that is universal across the world, but that has received relatively little attention to date, is spending behavior.
In this paper, using the transaction records of 1306 bank customers, we investigated the extent to which individual-level psychological characteristics can be inferred from bank transaction data. Specifically, we developed a more comprehensive feature space using: (1) overall spending behavior (i.e. total number and total amount of transaction), (2) temporal spending behavior (i.e. variability, persistence, and burstiness), (3) category-related spending behavior (i.e. diversity, persistence, and turnover), (4) customer category profile, and (5) socio-demographic information. Using these features, we first explore their association with individual psychological characteristics, we then analyze the performances of the different feature families and finally, we try to understand to what extent psychological characteristics from spending records can be inferred.
Our results show that inferring the psychological traits of an individual is a challenging task, even when using a comprehensive set of features that take temporal aspects of spending into account. We found that Materialism and Self-Control could be inferred with relatively high levels of accuracy, while the accuracy obtained for the Big Five traits was lower, with only Extraversion and Neuroticism reaching reasonable classification performances.
Hence, for traits like Materialism, Self-control, Extraversion, and Neuroticism our findings could be used to improve psychologically-informed advertising strategies for specific products as well as personality-based spending management apps and credit scoring approaches.


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September 22, 2023


Spending behavior, Personality traits, Bank transaction data, Computational psychology