Is Facebook a better judge of your personality?

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jan 13, 2015 23:11 IST

It had to happen some day: new research suggests that based on enough Facebook Likes, computers can judge your personality traits better than your friends, family and even your partner.

Using a new algorithm, researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Stanford have calculated the average number of Likes artificial intelligence (AI) needs to draw personality inferences about you as accurately as your partner.

The study, published in the journal PNAS compares the ability of computers and people to make accurate judgments about our personalities. People’s judgments were based on their familiarity with the judged individual, while computer models used a specific digital signal: Facebook Likes.

The results show that by mining Facebook Likes, the computer model was able to predict a person’s personality more accurately than most of their friends and family. Given enough Likes to analyse, only a person’s spouse rivalled the computer for accuracy of broad psychological traits, a release from the Cambridge University said.

The researchers describe the finding as an “emphatic demonstration” of the capacity of computers to discover an individual’s psychological traits through pure data analysis, showing machines can know us better than we’d previously thought: an “important milestone” on the path towards more social human-computer interactions.

In the study, a computer could more accurately predict the subject’s personality than a work colleague by analysing just ten Likes; more than a friend or a cohabitant (roommate) with 70, a family member (parent, sibling) with 150, and a spouse with 300 Likes.

Given that an average Facebook user has about 227 Likes (and this number is growing steadily), the researchers say that this kind of AI has the potential to know us better than our closest companions. The authors of the study write that automated, accurate, and cheap personality assessments could improve societal and personal decision-making in many ways — from recruitment to romance.

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