Using Facebook ‘likes,’ computer pegs people’s personalities

Program susses out traits more successfully than friends

cell phone showing facebook app

MACHINE KNOWS BEST  Using limited data from Facebook, computers can outdo humans in assessing a user’s openness, neuroticism and other personality traits.

Maria Elena/Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)

Like it or not, a computer program may know you better than do your colleagues, your family and even your spouse.

Researchers got a computer program’s take on tens of thousands of volunteers’ personalities based on their Facebook “likes” of posts, statuses, pages and photos of everything from Salvador Dalí and TED talks to the reality show star Snooki. Compared with assessments done by the volunteers’ friends, siblings, parents and partners, the machine was a better judge of personality than humans were. With data on at least 70 “likes,” the computer bested friends’ assessments of traits such as openness and neuroticism. With 150 “likes” it beat family, and with information on 300 “likes,” it bested spouses.

Some of the same researchers had previously found that computer programs could suss out personality traits (SN: 4/20/13, p. 14). The comparison to human abilities suggests that along with asking your spouse or mom for advice on a major life decision, you might do well to ask your computer, which doesn’t project cultural norms or have personal biases, the researchers suggest January 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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