Friday Factoid: Can a Computer Know You Better Than Your Spouse?


There is no way–NO WAY–that a computer can be a more accurate, better judge of an individual’s personality than other people, right? RIGHT??


Well, results yielded from a new research study conducted by Cambridge University is implicating just that. But whoa, how can this be? I mean computers are great with statistics and numbers, you know, hard data. But how can a computer effectively assess something as utterly intangible and ludicrously abstract as personality? Impossible, yeah?


Well, according to this research, it is quite possible. In this specific case, computers used one specific metric to assess an individual’s personality: Facebook Likes. Results from this study demonstrated that by assessing a person’s Facebook Likes, a computer model was able to predict an individual’s personality more accurately than most of that person’s own family and friends. If the computer was given a sufficient amount of Likes to analyze, only an individual’s spouse could parallel the computer’s accuracy of personality (as measured by broad psychological traits).


Let’s examine some of the results, shall we? Given a mere 10 likes, computers could assess an individual’s personality better than a colleague. Given 70 likes, the computer was more accurate than a friend or roommate. Given 150 Likes to analyze, the computer was more accurate than a parent or sibling. And given 300 Likes, a computer could more accurately predict an individual’s personality than a spouse. Since the average Facebook user has approximately 227 Likes, the computers have no shortage of data to analyze.


In this study, researchers used a sample of 86,220 individuals on Facebook that completed a 100 item personality questionnaire (from a myPersonality app) and provided access to their Facebook Likes. From the self-reported personality test, scores were generated based on the “Big Five” personality traits (also called the OCEAN model): openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The researchers were able to establish which Likes equated with higher levels of specific traits; for example, a Like of “meditation” showed a higher degree of openness. The aforementioned myPersonality app then gave users the option of inviting others (such as friends and family) to assess the psychological traits of the user via a shorter version of the personality test. The results from people the individual knew and the computer were assessed.


Shockingly, the computer came closer to the results from an individual’s self-reported personality than close friends and family members.  It seems that the artificial intelligence depicted in the science fiction genre isn’t as far off in the future as we may have believed…


Nauert, R. (2015). Computers Better Than Humans for Assessment of Personality?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2015.


Faisal Roberts, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern


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