Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) status updates may provide enough information to determine if someone is psychopathic or narcissistic, according to research from Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University in Sweden. The study had 300 American Facebook users take a personality test that is meant to determine a person’s psychological profile, including whether that person is an extrovert, an introvert, narcissistic, or neurotic. Their Facebook status updates were analyzed with an algorithm developed by Lund University professor Sverker Sikström and compared with the psych test results.
“The status analyses could indicate which Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) users demonstrated psychopathic and narcissistic personality traits in the personality tests,” said Sahlgrenska Academy researcher Danilo García in a statement.
How much do we inadvertently reveal online?
People who post about dark subject matter, including sexual taboos like prostitution or violent themes like decapitation, were more likely to exhibit psychopathic tendencies. Not that we need a computer algorithm to tell us that the guy posting about decapitations might have a screw loose, but the study does raise the question of how much information we unintentionally reveal about ourselves when we interact online. Everything from handwriting analysis to typing speed has been used to make predictions about people’s character in the past, and word usage seems more reasonable than either of those on an intuitive level.
Looking at just 300 people is a fairly small sample size, and predictive models tend to become more accurate the more data they have to work with (factual accuracy is another matter of course). Oddly, the research wasn’t able to predict positive behavioral patterns.
Facebook encourages people to exhibit darker tendencies to get attention
“That was an interesting result, that the method only predicted these dark traits, but not the big five,” he said. The big five personality traits normally refers to openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The researchers hypothesized that using Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) encourages people to exhibit darker tendencies to get attention, but it might also be that more extreme tendencies are easier to predict with limited information.
García’s advice to people worried about how they might sound when posting on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is that “using the word ‘I’ indicates a certain humility. It also indicates a certain type of honesty.” Sikström ‘s advice was even simpler. “Try to be normal, and don’t brag too much”.