Big Data + Psychology = Facebook Science

Scientists used Facebook for the largest ever study of language and personality – and the results are groundbreaking (Business Insider, 2 Oct 2013) – A group of University of Pennsylvania researchers who analyzed Facebook status updates of 75,000 volunteers have found an entirely different way to analyze human personality, according to a new study published in PLOS One. The volunteers completed a common personality questionnaire through a Facebook application and made their Facebook status updates available so that researchers could find linguistic patterns in their posts. Drawing from more than 700 million words, phrases, and topics, the researchers built computer models that predicted the individuals’ age, gender, and their responses on the personality questionnaires with surprising accuracy. The “open-vocabulary approach” of analyzing all words was shown to be equally predictive (and in some cases more so) than traditional methods used by psychologists, such as self-reported surveys and questionnaires, that use a predetermined set of words to analyze. Basically, it’s big data meets psychology. The Penn researchers also created word clouds that “provide an unprecedented window into the psychological world of people with a given trait,” graduate student Johannes Eichstaedt, who worked on the project, said in a press release. “Many things seem obvious after the fact and each item makes sense, but would you have thought of them all, or even most of them?” [ Polley : story includes some pretty fascinating word-clouds; this looks like quite an interesting study.]

Provided by MIRLN.

Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/