Your loved ones don’t understand your personality nearly as well as everyone’s most cherished companion, Facebook.
A recent study conducted at Stanford University found the social network to be better at analyzing people’s traits than their friends, family members, coworkers and even spouses.
Researchers had the friends and relatives of over 17,000 Facebook users fill out personality surveys about them.
These results were then compared to a computer analysis based solely on the Facebook user’s likes.
Just 10 likes needed to be analyzed for the computer to understand someone’s personality better than a coworker could.
When the likes increased to 70, the computer predicted an individual’s personality more accurately than that person’s friend or roommate did.
It took the computer 150 likes to know someone better than a family member and 300 to outperform a spouse.
According to the Huffington Post, the computer applied the participants’ Facebook likes to what are known as the Big Five personality traits in the field of psychology: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
So if one were to like a certain band or publication, the computer would associate that with a high or low level of one of these characteristics.
Study co-leader Michael Kosinski told HuffPost that he was stunned by the computer’s ability to play the role of a therapist.
We were thinking, okay, maybe we will be able to report that computers are half as good as human beings. We were completely surprised to see that computers are already beating us. They are beating us at our own game and they are beating us very decisively.
But this isn’t all that bad, Kosinski noted, since traditional personality surveys have long been labeled as inaccurate.
Psychologists joke that personality questionnaires are really IQ questionnaires. If someone is intelligent enough, then they can misrepresent themselves in the personality questionnaire in such a way that they will get a job, or get out of the therapy program if they don’t want to be there.
An online personality, on the other hand, is much harder to fake because the data is cumulative.
So for people to fool the computer into thinking they’re different than they really are, they’d basically have to pretend to be another person online for several years.
Facebook also proved to be able to predict future behavior, a crucial skill of mental health professionals.
Not even family and friends were more aware than the social network as to a user’s desire to abuse drugs.