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Study Shows That Facebook Knows You Better Than Your Friends And Family

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Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


There is no arguing the fact that Facebook is a goldmine of personal information. Millions of users from around the world do not think twice before posting their personal details and photos on the social network. But can the data shared through Facebook be used to judge the personality of a person? If the results of a new study are to be believed, the answer is a resounding “Yes”.

The study was conducted by the researchers from Stanford University and University of Cambridge who wanted to see how well computers can predict the traits of a human being based on the data extracted from Facebook. To carry out the study, the researchers created a computer model that analyzed the Facebook “likes” of more than 86,000 volunteers. The participants also needed to complete a questionnaire through the myPersonality app so that the results calculated by the computer model could be verified against the real traits of a person.

After collecting and analyzing data from thousands of users, researchers were able to create personality profiles of the volunteers through their computer software. When the researchers compared the personality profiles created by their computer model against the real data, they discovered that their system was able to create highly accurate profiles of the volunteers.

The study also tried to compare whether computer algorithms can provide better personality assessment that the humans. To do this comparison, researchers asked the friends, colleagues and families of the volunteers to answer few questions about them via the myPersonality app. In addition, the researchers also analyzed data from previous studies to determine how well humans were able to judge personalities of others. By collating data from different sources, researchers discovered that their computer model was far better in predicting personality than the humans. In many cases, the computer model even provided a more accurate profile of a participant than the assessment data provided by the friends, co-workers and family of the volunteer. Even the research team was surprised to discover that computers performed so well since humans excel at judging the personality of others.

The research team also shared details on how many Facebook likes it took to provide a more accurate personality assessment than friends, families and co-workers. The computer model provided a better personality profile than a participant’s colleague just by analyzing 10 Facebook likes while it took 70 likes to outrank a volunteer’s friend or roommate. As it can be imagined, outranking parents, close relatives and spouses needed a lot more Facebook likes. The computer model needed about 150 likes to provide a better personality profile than parents or siblings whereas it was able to outrank a spouse only after analyzing 300 Facebook likes.

Commenting on the results of the study, Youyou Wu, co-author and a doctorate student at the University of Cambridge; explained that computers can indeed do much better personality assessments and even predict real-life behaviors more accurately than the volunteers. He also predicted that computer algorithms would be used for making important decisions like finding like-minded employees or finding life partners in the near future.


February 25, 2015
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