Your computer can now predict your personality better than your own family

Image: Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock.com
By FIONA MACDONALD   13 JAN 2015

A new study has revealed that a computer model can accurately predict your personality based solely on your Facebook likes. And it does a better job than your own mother.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge in the UK and Stanford University in the US looked at how well a computer could assess the personalities of more than 86,000 volunteers, based solely on the pages they “like”.

And, depressingly, after analysing enough of our likes, the only person who knows us better than a computer is our spouse, the results show. Sorry mum.

“Previously we showed that you can use people’s Facebook likes to predict what their personality is like,” one of the Cambridge researchers David Stillwell told Victoria Turk from Motherboard. “But where this study’s different is that, whereas before we just showed you can make a prediction, this time we thought, how accurate is that really?”

The team assessed this by asking the volunteers fill in a 100-question personality test that rates five main traits, such as their extroversion, neuroticism and openness.

They then asked people who were close to more than 30,000 of them, such as their spouses, friends, co-workers, roommates, and family, to fill out a shorter version of the quiz.

The computer filled out the same 10-question quiz using knowledge it had gained entirely from Facebook likes of things such as movies, bands, books and other fan pages (likes on photos and status updates weren’t taken into account).

The results, which have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that a computer was better at judging the volunteer’s personality than a work colleague, family member or friend after analysing 150 Facebook likes. But it took examining 300 Facebook likes for the model to outdo someone’s spouse.

84772 webWu Youyou/Michal Kosinski

Given that we all now have around 227 likes (and growing), this means that computers potentially have the power to know a lot about us. Unfortunately, the results also suggest we may not be as unique as we like to think.

Stillwell gave Turk some examples of how some of our likes can correspond to our personality. As she explains for Motherboard:

“Extroverted people like meeting new people (go figure), parties, beer pong, and making people laugh, but also less obvious things like the jeweller Tiffany & Co. Introverts, on the other hand, like mathematics, animé, Minecraft, Star Trek, and J.R.R Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. ‘Many of them are rather stereotypical, but these are backed by data,’ he added.”

This computer model could now be used to predict people’s personalities, to help employers hire the right staff, and also target advertisements and content more effectively to Internet users.

“In the future, computers could be able to infer our psychological traits and react accordingly, leading to the emergence of emotionally-intelligent and socially skilled machines,” said the lead author Wu Youyou, from Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, in a press release.

“In this context, the human-computer interactions depicted in science fiction films such as Her seem to be within our reach,” he added.

I guess given the amount of time we spend on social media, it was only a matter of time before our computers started to know us better than our closest friends. But now that we’re aware they do, I wonder how long it will take for us to start lying to them…

Sources: EurekAlertMotherboard

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