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Can computers predict personality traits better than humans?

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Posted April 20, 2015

Ability to predict personality traits of others is essential skill of everyday interactions. Surprisingly, new large-scale study revealed that computer-based personality judgments can be more accurate than human judgments.

Picture: Perfect circle of human personality by Francesca Guadagnini / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Picture: Perfect circle of human personality by Francesca Guadagnini / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Computers outpacing humans in personality judgment present significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy,” authors of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences say.

Recent research showed that computer programs can make good inferences about individual’s character traits based on digital traces of person’s behavior. However, it was unknown what is power of these programs compared to human abilities. Researchers at Cambridge and Stanford Universities attempted to fill this gap in research. Wu Youyou and her colleagues compared predictions made by Facebook friends of an individual and predictions made by program which had access to his likes. Each individual’s personality was measured by extensive personality questionnaire.

“Our results show that computer-based models are significantly more accurate than humans in a core social-cognitive task: personality judgment. Computer-based judgments (r = 0.56) correlate more strongly with participants’ self-ratings than average human judgments do (r = 0.49),” the researchers report.

In addition, computer-based inferences provided better estimates of numerous behaviors, beliefs and conditions, such as substance use, values or physical health. It might be that a growing amount of digital evidence of human behavior and developing computer models can lead to even better computer inferences in the near future.

“Automated, accurate, and cheap personality assessment tools could affect society in many ways: marketing messages could be tailored to users’ personalities; recruiters could better match candidates with jobs based on their personality; products and services could adjust their behavior to best match their users’ characters and changing moods; and scientists could collect personality data without burdening participants with lengthy questionnaires,” the scientists predict.

Article: Youyou W., Kosinski M.,  Stillwell D., (2015) Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans. vol. 112 no. 4 1036–1040, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1418680112. Source link.

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