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Researchers can profile Facebook users to a 'T' with just their likes

Researchers can profile Facebook users to a 'T' with just their likes
Steve Dent
Steve Dent|@stevetdent|January 13, 2015 10:32 AM

Remember the time you liked a beer pong video on Facebook and thought nothing more of it? That may have said more about you than your friends and family ever knew, according to researchers at Cambridge and Stanford. They created a computer program that sifted through the Facebook likes of over 85,000 users to see if a person's preferences could rat out their true persona. The team used certain associations that seem fairly obvious; for instance, liking tattoos means you're more likely to drink alcohol. Others were more bizarre: apparently, people who like curly fries tend to be intelligent. Who knew?

The researchers made the subjects take a MyPersonality survey to create a baseline, then asked friends and relatives to judge them with a similar survey. The results were surprising -- the computer model could judge someone better than a friend or roommate by analyzing just 70 likes, and do better than a parent or sibling with 150 likes. The average number of likes per user in the study was 227, enough for the computer to evaluate someone better than almost anyone, with one exception: their spouses.

So what does that mean? We had our senior editor and resident Facebook ace, Nicole Lee give it a whirl, since she was the only one of us who had liked enough things -- it won't work if you're not very active. Bottom line, she was meh on the results (above): it guessed her age incorrectly at 25, thought her more likely single than not (wrong) and gave her a 58 percent openness score, which she called "so off the mark I can't even." It also judged her to be 2 percent lesbian for reasons she can't fathom, though she now plans to include that stat in her profile. On the plus side, Lee did feel the 38 percent neurotic score was "spot on." If you're a reasonably prolific Facebook user, feel free to give it a spin yourself.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

Researchers can profile Facebook users to a 'T' with just their likes