It’s finally happened – Facebook has become the topic of important research published in leading academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I’m not saying I think the research isn’t worthwhile. I’m just saying that when I signed up for Facebook 9 years ago because I was bored with Friendster (does that still exist?), I never thought that one day people would be getting grants to tell us what our actions on this social network could say about our personalities.
The study by researchers at Cambridge University (full version available here) could predict a number of attributes and demographics simply based on the person’s Facebook “likes”. Their algorithm successfully predicted sexual orientation, race, and political affiliation. It also predicted the personality trait “Openness” just as well as if you’d taken a personality test more than once. Personality researchers use something called test-retest accuracy to determine how robust a concept, like “Openness”, is. In other words, if someone scores high on “Openness” the first time they take a personality test and then they take the test again later and still score high on “Openness”, then the way those researchers are measuring “Openness” is considered to be robust, or stable, and is considered to have a high test-retest accuracy. According to this research, Facebook “likes” have the same accuracy for that personality trait.
Makes you really wonder how much people can tell about you based on public information.
More news on this research:
- You Are What You Like on Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] (makeuseof.com)
- Recruiters use Facebook for Personality Screening (roosterhr.wordpress.com)
- Colbert Takes on That Revealing Facebook Likes Study (webpronews.com)
- Private Traits and Attributes are Predictable from Digital Records of Human Behavior (3quarksdaily.com)
- BBC article on this research