New Study Finds That Computers May Know Us Better Than Our Friends and Family

A new study published earlier this month revealed that even a person’s closest friends and family didn’t know their personality as well as computers did.

A team of researchers from both Stanford and the University of Cambridge discovered that a computer with access to a person’s Facebook “likes” actually knew more about that individual’s personality than that person’s own friends and family.

The study focused on five key areas of a personality that are also known as the “Big Five,” the Stanford Daily reports.

Those areas are “openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.”

It wasn’t long ago that consumers were shocked to find out that algorithms online were doing more than keeping track of their favorite shopping sites or other daily activities. Today’s algorithms are also judging consumers in a sense and using assumptions made about their personalities to not only control advertisements but to completely rearrange their search engine results.

Now that computers are also proving to be accurate judges of personality, it seems like our technological companions are getting to know us all too well.

During the study, the researchers collected self-assessments from the participants about their own personalities.

Each of the 82,220 volunteers had to answer 100 key questions about their personalities before their friends, family and spouses were then given a 10-item questionnaire about their loved one’s personality.

Meanwhile, the computer used nothing more than the participants’ Facebook “likes.”

On average, the computer only had to sift through 10 likes before it could guess the person’s personality more accurately than a friend or roommate.

After about 70 likes the computer was able to guess the person’s personality better than their close friends.

It took roughly 150 likes for the computer to perform better than family members.

It took much more research for the computers to perform as well as the research participants’ spouses, however.

On average, the computer had to analyze about 300 likes before it could judge the participants’ personality as well as their spouse did with the 10-item questionnaire.

Since most people only had about 277 likes on Facebook, the computer often failed to judge the participants’ personality as well as their spouse.

While spouses still seem to understand their loved ones’ personality better than the Facebook like-reading computers, the researchers said there were still some key implications to take away from the study.

In the study’s abstract, the team of researchers wrote that “computers outpacing humans in personality judgment present significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing and privacy.”

Only time will tell how much privacy consumers are willing to sacrifice in exchange for advancements in psychology and marketing.