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We are currently developing Personas for our website and as part of the validation process we wanted to see if usability participants would be able to identify which persona segment they most closely resemble. We compared what they said to how they interacted with the site and so far they don't seem to be matching very well.

There could be any number of reasons why this experiment would fail but I was wondering if there was any research that could support or discredit the idea that people can accurately identify their own persona segment.

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They probably shouldn't, because personas are stylised users, and people tend not like what are effectively charicatures of themselves. There is all sorts of research that indicates that people tend not to see themselves as others see them, and that self-identification is dangerous unless you are putting a lot of time into understanding how people are characterising themselves.

It is probably a better approach to assess the various styles of interaction, and then for you to see what personas these interactions seem to match closest to ( if at all ). Then you can assess whether your personas cover the full range of interaction styles.

There is a danger that you try to do too many things at once - trying to get people to identify themselves with personas as well as assessing their interactions means that you are trying to hit a moving target.

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One of the questions that comes to mind is: do you want your persona's to be based on your evaluation of users or the user's evaluation of themselves? IMO with the latter you could very well end up giving users what they want and not what they need (which are very different very often). Persona creation is based on your categorization of users based on parameters you decide. I would suggest you talk to a few more users and see if you think they are well represented by your personas.

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I guess the question comes down to whether the audience sees themselves as your team sees them. If your research is good, the personas might contain aspects that people don't identify with no matter how true they are.

The results of testing your personas in this way might yield some interesting results, but I wouldn't take those results as an absolute truth about the validity of the personas.

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