The computer algorithms that analyse ‘Likes’ on Facebook have come a long way since the social networking service launched in 2004. According to a new scientific study, their ability to read a person’s personality is now stronger than humans. In other words, the Facebook app in your pocket knows you better than your own mother. Brrr…
To compare the accuracy of personality judgments between computer models and humans, scientists from the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge enlisted 86,220 Facebook users to complete a 100-item personality questionnaire. Human personality judgments were obtained from the participants’ Facebook friends, who were asked to describe a given participant using a 10-item version of the same personality measure.
Computer-based personality judgments, based on Facebook Likes, were also obtained using the university’s own computer model. “Likes” were previously shown to successfully predict personality and other psychological traits. The results showed that computer-based judgments correlated more strongly with participants’ self-ratings than those given by their Facebook friends.
“[We found] that computers’ judgments of people’s personalities based on their digital footprints are more accurate and valid than judgments made by their close others or acquaintances (friends, family, spouse, colleagues, etc.),” the report explains.
“Our findings highlight that people’s personalities can be predicted automatically and without involving human social-cognitive skills.”
The study concludes that automated, accurate, and cheap personality assessment tools could be used to improve society in various ways: recruiters could better match candidates with jobs based on their personality, for instance.
“In the future, people might abandon their own psychological judgments and rely on computers when making important life decisions, such as choosing activities, career paths, or even romantic partners,” the report suggests.
Apparently, this could even pave the way for romantic relationships with operating systems, as depicted in the Spike Jones movie Her:
The ability to accurately assess psychological traits and states, using digital footprints of behavior, occupies an important milestone on the path toward more social human-computer interactions.
This sounds a bit creepy to us, but we may have been influenced by Joaquin Phoenix’s mustache in said film.