Many people have always suspected that posting something on Facebook and liking certain pages reveals something about their personality. Now it’s official. A study by the University of Cambridge and the National Academy of Sciences has established a scientific relationship between “Likes” on Facebook and a user’s personality.
The study by Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell examined the “Likes” of 58,466 U.S. Facebook users to draw conclusions about their religious, political and sexual preferences, as well as their personality traits. Participants provided information in an additional questionnaire to cross check and verify the conclusions produced by the researcher’s computer algorithm.
Some of the findings merely reflect common sense. If you like the pages of George W Bush, John McCain and “Positively Republican” then, lo and behold, you are a Republican.
The same goes for the quantity of friends you have. If you like the page “Walking With Your Friend & Randomly Pushing Them Into Someone/Something,” you probably have fewer friends, although some readers will contest that a little bit of friendly banter can only strengthen a healthy relationship.
On the flip side, it is less clear why people who like the Dollar General store page or the movie “Paid in Full” should have more friends, but unfortunately, the study merely lists statistical results and does not provide an explanation.
The results which the algorithm produced on the basis of Facebook likes are remarkably accurate, however. Checking against the real life questionnaires, the study predicted the gender of a participant with a hit-rate of 93 percent.
In this case it probably did not take much computer power to figure out that a man would never like “Gilette Venus” and that few girls play “Starcraft,” but it’s always good to have scientific backing.
Predicting alcohol consumption was more difficult, as the hit rate was only 70 percent. While it probably wasn’t too hard to guess that people who like the pages of “Jim Beam” and “Belvedere Vodka” as well as “Getting A Text That Says I Miss You Drinking Around A Bonfire,” have the occasional drink or two, people who abstain from alcohol present a bit of a riddle.
People who don’t drink liked “Pretending To Think When The Teacher Is Looking At You,” and “Why Is Monday So Far Away From Friday And Friday So Bloody Close To Monday,” a tough nut to crack even for a human psychologist with decades of experience.
With respect to personality, a few key pages determine the five factors of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Emotional Stability and Age.
If you like “The Colbert Report” for example you are open, stable, intelligent but not very extrovert and agreeable. You are also likely to be older.
If you like Mitt Romney, you are on the bottom of openness but on the top of conscientiousness, highly agreeable —who would have guess that one?—, stable and, well, very old.
If you like Hello Kitty, you are out of luck or a kid. The seemingly innocent Japanese cartoon figure represents a low in being agreeable and stable as well as being conscientious. The only plus and maybe a good excuse is that people who like Hello Kitty are also very young.
Last but not least, people who like Mozart or “the Godfather” always knew that they are smart—please check the Like section of the author’s Facebook page for reference—and now they have scientific proof for it. People who like Harley Davidson and Bret Michaels are on the other end of the intelligence spectrum.
While some of the findings of the study will be heavily disputed, there is one thing that is certain. Large corporations and their armies of advertisers and marketers will pay even more attention to your Facebook account—likes are public, unless you change the settings—to selectively sell us things we really Like.
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