What your Facebook likes reveal

NICKY PHILLIPS
Last updated 11:32 12/03/2013
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FACEBOOK ORACLE: We love curly fries, and Stephen Colbert too - we must be smart then!

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If you thought clicking ''like'' on Facebook posts of cute kittens and Ryan Gosling memes said little about you, think again.

Social psychologists have studied Facebook users' likes and found they reveal a startlingly accurate picture of an individual's personality traits, including their sexual orientation, political party preference and drug use.

The findings build on previous research that has shown the seemingly innocuous information people post about themselves on social media and the internet can imply a lot about a person, all of which can be easily accessed by advertisers to better target their marketing.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge studied the Facebook likes - a mechanism for users to express their fondness for other user's photos, status updates or pages - of more than 58,000 Americans, who, as well as giving the researchers permission to analyse their online profiles, provided demographic details and sat for psychometric tests.

When they entered the data into a mathematical model, they found it accurately discriminated between African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95 per cent of cases; between Democrats and Republicans with 85 per cent accuracy; and between gay and straight men 88 per cent of the time. It could pick a drug user in 65 per cent of cases.

While the model was better at discriminating between attributes that had only two options, such as gender, it could also predict some personality traits or features that had multiple variables, such as age and intelligence.

The model forecast a person's intelligence accurately in about 38 per cent of cases; determined whether they were an extrovert in 40 per cent of cases; and estimated a person's emotional stability 30 per cent of the time.

While the ability to deduct information from basic digital records could be used to improve products and services, the researchers noted there may be negative implications because it could be applied to large numbers of people without their consent or without them even noticing.

- Daily Life

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