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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
What your computer says about you
Computer desktop with cute toys
Why have a voodoo doll on your desktop?
The computer in front of you could provide an insight into the kind of person you are.

Psychologists say that a computer's virtual desktop can tell you as much about a person's personality as their real desktop.

And it is not a matter of analysing the screensaver you use or the picture you have chosen as the computer's wallpaper.

"How people prioritise the order in which certain things come on to their screen tells you about their priorities in their lives," explained Ben Williams, a corporate psychologist.

"You can tell whether they are proactive people who are going to make things happen or reactive people who wait for things to happen and then respond to them," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

Personal space

Often, one of the first things people do with the computer at work is to try to make it their own.

Ben Williams is a corporate psychologist
Williams: Mouse mats say much about you
Psychologists say we are staking out the computer as our personal space, creating a sense of control of our surroundings.

"If you have cute pictures or toys on your computer, that says you spend a lot of time on the computer," explained Mr Williams.

"It says this is my territory; look how exciting or dramatic it is."

Some people tend to stick things on to the equipment to make it theirs, or use mouse mats that make political statements.

"Mouse mats can display a lot about not only your interests but also your value system," said Mr Williams. "People like to display their attitudes and beliefs."

Virtual clues

Your computer provides more than just physical clues to your personality.


The person with a lot of whizz bang stuff is very technology aware

Ben Williams, psychologist
Analysing the computer screen, the images you use or simply the way you organise your icons can reveal much about your inner desires and ambitions.

Whereas some people may just have company screensavers, others may use something that reflects their personal interests, so a diving enthusiast may have a fish screensaver.

The appearance of the desktop may also provide powerful insights into how comfortable someone is with technology.

"It could be that the person with not much on their desktop is naive about technology," said Mr Williams.

"The person with a lot of whizz bang stuff is very technology aware. They know how to download these things, install them and store them."

In some cases, a person may just be trying to show off.

"It says look at me, I can afford it, I have the most expensive, the biggest, the longest, the hardest, the sharpest," explained Mr Williams. "It's that sort of macho stuff."


What does your desktop say about you? This is what you had to say.

Bagpuss wallpaper, toys on top of computer and screensaver is flying dove in slow motion
Angela Glennon, UK

My desktop is Windows XP set to look like the old Win2000/ME style - less clutter and glare. My wallpaper is of Jupiter and its moons. My screensaver alternates between Seti@home and something that creates pretty mathematical patterns. OK, so I'm a programmer, totally confident with the technology and with no particular desire to show off to anyone.
Barry Neilsen, UK

As an IT professional my desktop is always uncluttered. I tend to have a few shortcuts to where my code and test areas are in order to navigate through network directories faster and also have shortcuts to most frequently used applications such as Visual Basic and Microsoft Access. Does this make me naive about technology? Maybe not. Efficient is the word I would use.
Darren Adlington, England

My desktop has generic folders set on the right of the screen, office tools on the left. The wallpaper is a photo of electrons passing over matter (looks like a series of electric blue waves) and the screensaver is from The Matrix - the green code seen falling down the screen (as in the film)
Daniel Griffin, UK

I spend all working day every day using a computer . I am a programmer. To me it is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. I feel the need to customise it as much as I customise my hammer . I lay things out in a way so that I can find them, that is I use the tool the best way I can. I use an optical mouse that works better without a mouse mat, I use a basic screensaver to save on processor usage and provide some security. I do not have any wallpaper since they act as a distraction.
Andrew Torrance, Wales , UK

I have a matrix code screensaver from the file the Matrix. My wallpaper is an image of some sunset scenery.
Sandman, UK

On my desktop - Bryan Ferry - is there anything else?
Vanessa, UK

Screensaver and wallpaper: Calvin and Hobbes, but it changes about three or four times a year I got the C&H stuff one day when I found out that there won't be any more books published by Waterson. Also because is not the standard stuff that everyone has or will find on those free-download sites. My desktop icons are arranged as first, accessing drives and hardware, then shortcuts to folders I use often and then applications.
Carlos Ortiz, UK

I don't have a lot of whizz bang stuff on my laptop, principally, because I am fed up with it causing problems with other applications - not because I don't know how to download and install it. I would suggest that those with such accoutrements just haven't matured beyond the "download everything to show off" to the state of cynicism about installing any old software.
Hugh, Netherlands

My desktop has two main features. It is very clean, with five icons in total: MS Outlook, My Documents, My Computer, IE and the Recycle Bin. And it has got a National Geographic picture of the Grand Canyon, the most amazing place I've ever been to. That's the current picture, I change it every week or two. That's it! Simple but not minimalistic.
Norberto Amaral, Portugal

My mouse mat is there because it was free, the items on my PC are things that I need close to hand, that can't find any space on my desk - pens, a spoon for my coffee, music CDs etc. As for personal images on the screen - we've got no chance, the IT bods have a whizzy little tool which places an 'inspirational' message and picture or cartoon each day. This wipes out any personalisation of the screen and desktop on the PC.
Paul, Wales, UK

No desktop wallpaper, a clutter of icons randomly scattered all over the desktop, and a disorganised Start menu. What more does a computer user need?
Andy, Leeds, UK

I have the BBC news ticker at the top of my screen, the office toolbar along the side and the Big Brother site in my active desktop. No room for many icons
Andrew Dunlop, N.Ireland

What I do with my PC says more about me than the way it appears to the observer. My desk is not cluttered, my screensaver is either off or configured for the Seti project. I'm being useful when I'm not at the PC this way. The major personality clues are in how I use my PC to communicate and who I choose to do this with. I am a home-based IT consultant and need human interaction during the day, so an instant messenger service keeps me in contact with people all over the world.
Jason Stansfield, UK

My wallpaper at the moment is Craig David. I generally change it once every two or three days with my current favourite singer or actor.
Mala, India

What my computer says about me is that my computer is a tool, not the focus of my lifestyle - default blue Windows 2000 desktop, icons in the default place and no sounds at all. When you started personalising your desktop 15 years ago, you get bored with it after about seven of them.
Simon Gray, UK

I work in a predominantly female office and recently got a new computer. It's jet black with black monitor, black keyboard and mouse. I added a racing green wrist rest and mouse pad and matching lamp. When a colleague said they'd hate it as it was "awfully masculine" I knew I had succeeded.
David, Scotland

At work I have as wallpaper a picture of Orion taken form the Hubble Telescope, I don't use a screensaver. The only icons on my desktop are my computer, network neighbourhood and internet Explorer all the rest of them are on the quick launch taskbar. At home I have a digitally created picture of the Big Bang. The screensaver is a man who mops up the screen.
Christopher Luff, UK

I worked in a place where they let you have your own screensavers. Many people used the Blue Screen of Death screensaver, which displays a screen image similar to when the PC has had a major fault. One day the IT manager was working late and thought all the PC in the company had a fault as they all displayed the error screen. He was not happy when he found out and from then on all personal customisation to the company PCs was banned.
Jacky, Belgium

I have a photo of my son as the wallpaper. I don't use a screensaver as I rarely stop working for long enough to make it worthwhile. I spend so much time at work it certainly seems worth it to make the machine look more homely.
Simon, UK

Screensavers and wallpapers are my own creation, but usually scenic or sci-fi pictures downloaded from other websites. Also, my own family pictures. What does my computer say about me? Probably that I spend too much time keying in letters to BBC Talking Points and not enough time working.
Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands

My desktop is very cluttered. I have loads of notepad documents with various bits of information on them as well as various downloaded files that I've yet to file away. Screensaver is just the time and I can't even see my wallpaper!
Chris Higham, UK

Many organisations restrict the individual's ability to modify the desktop, or control it in such a way that changes are not saved. As a result, the desktop itself reflects corporate paranoia more than it reflects an individual's personality.
Jem, UK

I agree 100% that your PC is an reflection of your personality. Where as it used to be your desk, it's now your desktop. Personally I like the minimilist effect on my PC and not because I'm not technologically advanced. I'm an experienced analyst programmer. Its just the way I like it!
Paul Ashton, UK

My background at work is the Ozzfest 2002 picture, while at home I've got a view of the Earth by night from space. My screensavers on both machines are the Seti search one. Generally my monitor is covered in little post it notes reminding me of various things that need doing. My home mouse mat has a large cannabis leaf design, while the one at work is some free one we got.
Andrew, United Kingdom.

My icons are all arranged in a circle on my desktop in front of my background picture of the sky. I have a picture my baby sister drew for me stuck to the side of my screen.
Nicola, UK

Personally I do not have anything on my PC at work. Why do you need personalised desktops, screensavers and mouse mats? Work is just that, work, it has no reflection on my personality or my life outside work so there is no reason to personalise something which is you use to work.
D Penn, UK

My Windows desktop has all the usual icons on the right for something different, while the left is always crammed full of temporary notes. The background is dark blue and green waves, while the screensaver hasn't seen the light of day since 1994. (Anyone else remember After Dark?)
Tony, Australia

My desktop is a Windows XP hacked theme which has a transparent taskbar and a renamed Start button. It has a picture of my love and I in the background which fills the entire screen as the taskbar is invisible. My computer icons are in the top left. The Work icons in the bottom left and the movie related ones on the top right, while my music related icons are at the bottom right. My mouse mat has a picture us (my love and I) and my wireless keyboard set up to get the news, e-mail, special folders, my website. I guess that the computer does describe me - first priority the woman I love, second comes in work, third entertainment.
Gabriel Asseily, UK

Very simple uncluttered desktop, seven icons, wallpaper is a close up picture of half a pint of beer that I took myself.
Stuart Bryant, UK

My desktop is a picture of my car - a pageant blue 1980 modified Mini. My screen saver is a slideshow of my car, my mouse mat is a picture of my car and the walls are covered in Mini's, a Subaru Impretza, a Dodge Viper and yes, an Aprilia 125 Futura. I dread to think what this says about me.
Elf, UK

I have a picture of Holly Valance on mine, with the appearance all blue to correspond with the picture. No screen saver, least amount of icons on desktop, all bars hidden, a mouse mat with a picture of Stewie from family guy, and all the mouse icons in a Matrix style.
simon mcdonnell, UK

My PC has a scanned image of Alyson Hannigan (who plays Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and a banner screensaver with a suitably rude message. The PC itself is surrounded by plants to add a little greenery and I have a Buzz Lightyear figure stuck to the front of the monitor.
Dave, London,England

I have a picture our sun in infra-red tiled on my wallpaper. Screensaver cannot be altered at work due to security issues!
Michael, UK

I have a number of pretty pictures of Sophie Marceau, or alternatively ones of my pet parrots as my wallpaper. These alternate depending on my mood. At work, we're not permitted to download or install software, so the desktop is uneventful, although there are a number of shortcuts to work stuff. Most of these use different icons to the standard ones. Stress toys litter my PC's environs.
Robert Putnam, UK

Like another correspondent, I also have a jet black computer with a green wrist rest and mouse mat. My screensaver is from Kennedy Space Centre which I understand can also be downloaded from the web. The wallpaper is also from Kennedy and is set to change daily - this takes about one month and I will then change to one from SeaWorld Orlando.
Alison , UK

My screensaver is the life sciences molecule/protein modeller searching for cancer cures. The desktop is a clutter - I put everything there, just like me real desk.
Steve Cole, UK

I am into bodybuilding and have pictures of my body building heroes such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal on my desktop. They inspire me during the day.
Liam Sheridan, UK

I have a picture of the 2001 British Lions and a screen saver showing players from various Zurich Premiership teams. My desktop area is kept tidy and lined up to the left. My home PC is set out the same and very tidy, no clutter shortcuts on the desktop. However my desktop wallpaper at home has a picture of Tintagel castle in sunset and screensaver is a slideshow of pictures of my family
Leanne, UK

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25 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
04 May 00 | Science/Nature
10 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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