Skip to main content

This Computer Reads Your Friends Better Than You Do


We generally think of robots and computers as task-centric machines; dedicated to reading instructions, not personalities. We attribute computers with the possession of artificial, and perhaps “IQ,” intelligence, but certainly not “emotional” intelligence.

According to recent studies conducted at Stanford University and the University of Cambridge, artificially intelligent computers can assess a person’s feelings more accurately than can humans - with the possible exception of the subject’s spouse.

This finding is remarkable on many levels:

  • Humans assess others’ feeling in milliseconds, using hundreds of subtle visual, audible and historical impressions.
  • We use these assessments to determine friend or foe, good mood or bad, trustworthy or dishonest, social status, and sexual attraction.
  • Personality assessment is used by corporate recruiters and dating sites. It is also used in competitive sports and personal relationships.
  • These findings may affect your next hire, team development or even your marriage.
  • Computers may be able to accurately predict the music, art, food, clothes, books, people and jobs you will like, or dislike.  Perhaps they already can: think Pandora, Apple Music, Match.com, etc.

A computer program used a small number of Facebook “likes” to determine a subject's personality, their mood, their likelihood of substance abuse, race, gender, sexual, religious and political orientation, and IQ intelligence.  

The computer assessed five basic personality dimensions:
  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

The computer used artificial intelligence to predict these attributes with 93 - 95% accuracy.  Greater than professional analysts, greater than the friends and family of the subjects.

How much data did the computer need?


86,200 human subjects took the personality test; the subjects’ friends and family then filled out a short personality-profile questionnaire. 
Researchers measured the number of Facebook likes the computer needed before it could make a personality assessment more precise than the humans closest to someone.

  • With 10 random Facebook likes, the computer beat co-workers in predicting personality. 
  • With 70 likes, the computer was more accurate than friends. 
  • With 150 likes, it out assessed relatives. 
  • And, at 300 likes, the computer could determine the subject's personality better than their own spouse.

The researchers noted, 
This is an emphatic demonstration of the ability of a person's psychological traits to be discovered by an analysis of data, not requiring any person-to-person interaction.
It shows that machines can get to know us better than we'd previously thought, a crucial step in interactions between people and computers.”
The findings also suggest that in the future, computers could be able to infer our psychological traits and react accordingly, leading to the emergence of emotionally intelligent and socially skilled machines.”


The study and data:



(c) David J. Katz, New York City

Popular posts from this blog

Beware of Wombats & Other Vampires

You are surrounded by dangerous WOMBATS. They’re everywhere. Sometimes they hide in plain sight, easy to spot. Other times they are well camouflaged, requiring heightened awareness to identify them. You need to stay alert, it’s important to avoid them. WOMBATs resemble ordinary, productive tasks. However, they are vampires for time and resources, weapons of mass distraction.WOMBATs are seductive. Working on a WOMBAT feels productive.WOMBATs are bad for your career.WOMBATs are bad for your business.WOMBATs infiltrate your work day (and your personal time). Strike them down.WOMBATs may be be ingrained in your company culture: “We’ve always done it that way…” WOMBAT Metamorphosis Alert: A task or project that wasproductive in the pastcanevolve into a WOMBAT in today's environment.Your comfort zone is populated with WOMBATs.More on comfort zones, here.Some people are WOMBATs in disguise. Stay away from them, they are vampire WOMBATs.If you don’t control your WOMBATs, your WOMBATs will…

How Randa and the Fashion Industry are Adapting to DIY

The term 'Do It Yourself' has turned into a phenomenon over the past decade and is continuing to gain momentum, especially in the fashion industry. From interactive design stations at Topshop, to custom shoes at Jimmy Choo, every level of the fashion industry is dipping their toes into the pools of DIY.

"Many industry insiders think it is just the beginning. Ask about the future of fashion, and the answer that is likely to come back (along with the importance of Instagram and the transformation of shows into entertainment) is personalization," says Vanessa Friedman from the New York Times. 

Taking Tips From a Younger Generation

Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor at The New York Times, visited the garment district in Manhattan to interview designers as part of a story for the newspaper’s Snapchat account. Credit George Etheredge/The New York Times
What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age? Plenty.

How on earth did I become an “older worker?”

It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I set out to climb the ladder in my chosen field. That field happens to be journalism, but it shares many attributes with countless other workplaces. For instance, back when I was one of the youngest people in the room, I was helped by experienced elders who taught me the ropes.

Now, shockingly, I’m one of the elders. And I’ve watched my industry undergo significant change. That’s why I recently went searching for a young mentor — yes, a younger colleague to mentor me.