Like curly fries? You’re clever. Like motorbikes? You’re not: the science of Facebook 'likes'
New study reveals how Facebook “likes” say a lot more about a person than you first think
Enjoy curly fries, thunderstorms and Morgan Freeman’s voice? Chances are you’re highly intelligent.
But if Tyler Perry, Harley Davidsons and the American country group Lady Antebellum are your thing, you may not be the sharpest tool in the box.
These are just some of the conclusions of a new study by Cambridge psychologists into what can be deduced about a person by analysing their Facebook “likes”.
Researchers used a complex algorithm to find it was possible to accurately predict what a person is like in real life – including sexual orientation, religion, political views, intelligence, and even drug use – based on what might otherwise appear to be innocuous preferences. The academics warned that similar tools could be used by repressive regimes to predict the political beliefs or sexual orientation – even of those who avoid making obvious statements online.
For example, researchers found that only five per cent of gay users clicked on obvious links such as “gay marriage” but they were nonetheless able to predict with 88 per cent accuracy a man’s sexual preference by monitoring the other things they liked on Facebook – such as films and pop groups.
Michael Kosinski, a computational psychologist at the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, told The Independent that similar techniques were used by companies to tailor advertising or services to consumers. But he said online behaviour could also be used to accurately predict deeply personal details.
“On one hand I want to share as much data as possible with online services,” he said. “I want an online book store, for example, to know about my book tastes so I get better recommendations the next time I log on. But on the other hand by revealing the kind of books I’m reading I’m also allowing different companies or institutions to predict quite accurately other traits I might not want to share.”
Scientists studied 58,000 predominantly-American Facebook users who have signed up to a free online psychology test in return for the anonymous use of their data. That allowed psychologists to build a computer program that could start trawling through public posts and predict what sort of person someone is like in real life. The programme was able to determine race with 95 per cent accuracy, political leanings with 85 per cent accuracy and religion 82 per cent of the time.
* Individual traits and attributes can be predicted to a high degree of accuracy based on records of users' Likes.
For example, the best predictors of high intelligence include “Thunderstorms,” “The Colbert Report,” “Science,” and “Curly Fries,” whereas low intelligence was indicated by “Sephora,” “I Love Being A Mom,” “Harley Davidson,” and “Lady Antebellum.”
Good predictors of male homosexuality included “No H8 Campaign,” “Mac Cosmetics,” and “Wicked The Musical,” whereas strong predictors of male heterosexuality included “Wu-Tang Clan,” “Shaq,” and “Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps.” Although some of the Likes clearly relate to their predicted attribute, as in the case of No H8 Campaign and homosexuality, other pairs are more elusive; there is no obvious connection between Curly Fries and high intelligence.
Moreover, note that few users were associated with Likes explicitly revealing their attributes. For example, less than 5% of users labeled as gay were connected with explicitly gay groups, such as No H8 Campaign, “Being Gay,” “Gay Marriage,” “I love Being Gay,” “We Didn't Choose To Be Gay We Were Chosen.” Consequently, predictions rely on less informative but more popular Likes, such as “Britney Spears” or “Desperate Housewives” (both moderately indicative of being gay).
Research also showed the average levels of personality traits and age for several popular Likes.
Each Like attracts users with a different average personality and demographic profile and, thus, can be used to predict those attributes. For example, users who liked the “Hello Kitty” brand tended to be high on Openness and low on “Conscientiousness,” “Agreeableness,” and “Emotional Stability.” They were also more likely to have Democratic political views and to be of African-American origin, predominantly Christian, and slightly below average age.
Although liking “Barack Obama” is clearly related to being a Democrat, it is also relatively popular among Christians, African Americans, and Homosexual individuals.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Paris Fashion Week: Skirting the issue for the stylish boys' brigade
Losing appetite as you age? Try adding umami flavour to restore the 'joy of taste'
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Miss Universe 2015: A beefeater, a yellow tree and an entire hockey game - the bizarre national costumes
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Wes...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...
£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...