Why Facebook posts can't reveal personality traits anymore

  • IANS, New York
  • Updated: Sep 12, 2014 12:58 IST

The privacy changes in the recent past on the social networking site Facebook have made it difficult to reveal personalities of people peeping into your profile or 'liking' your posts, say researchers.

“Previous studies have given us really good evidence that we do know what people are like when we get a complete view of their actions on Facebook,” said Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of communication studies from University of Kansas.

However, since much of the research studied earlier versions of Facebook, it is conceivable that people's ability to accurately judge others has gone down as a consequence of these changes, he added.

Researchers found that one Facebook activity that did not carry much weight in accurately detecting personality was number of “likes” a post generates from other users.

“It is unfortunate because that it is one of the main factors in how often other people are seeing posts and it is probably worthless for knowing what their real personality is,” Hall stated.

Another change is the kind of information that was shown on the info page, now referred to as the About page.

At one point, Facebook users were able to list their favourite bands, books and movies. Those who did so tended to have open personalities.

“Now Facebook asks users to choose from a list of options which is a passive step versus an active one,” Hall maintained.

In a previous study, Hall and his team sampled 100 Facebook users, paralleling the demographics of the social networking site, and asked them to fill out a personality survey.

A group of coders looked at each person's Facebook activity, 53 cues in all, to see whether certain personality types were more likely to do specific activities.

The researchers then had 35 strangers spend 10 to 15 minutes on each of the Facebook users' profile pages to see if they could correctly gauge a person's personality.

The crux of the study looked at which cues correlated to personality types and whether the 35 strangers were able to correctly detect personality traits based on those cues.

“We found that extroversion was the easiest personality trait for strangers to interpret followed by agreeableness and openness,” Hall noted.

While strangers were able to correctly match certain Facebook activities with personality traits in the previous study, researchers now believe new algorithms enacted by Facebook make it harder to detect personality traits.

The study is set to appear in the journal New Media & Society.

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