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Facebook Knows You Better Than Your Best Friend

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Your best friend knows your shoe size, the name of your childhood dog, that you crave tortilla chips after a few glasses of wine, and that you still sleep with a baby blanket (guilty!). But can a few "Likes" on Facebook get a sense of your personality just as well as your friends? While a computer may not know that you chew ice when you're nervous and only like the window seat on planes, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that it can accurately judge your personality better than your best friend, roommate, coworkers, and family members just by looking at the things you give the thumbs up on Facebook.

Researchers had thousands of Facebook users complete a thorough personality test that looked at the five big character traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The participants' friends were also asked to complete a questionnaire about their friend's personality. Using this data and the "Likes" participants had on Facebook, researchers used a computer program to match people to different personality traits. Like TED talks and meditation? You probably rank pretty high in openness. Snooki and dancing? That's a mark of high-level extroversion. (Find out about The Personality Trait That Makes You Healthy.)

It took the computer program only 10 likes to judge someone's personality better than a colleague, 70 likes to do better than a friend or roommate, 150 likes to do better than a family member, and 300 likes to do as well as a romantic partner. Yes, your computer could know you as well as your husband.

"I think we can learn more about ourselves and others through this type of research," says Samuel D. Gosling, Ph. D, Professor of Psychology at University of Texas at Austin, whose previous research on the accuracy of Facebook profiles to determine personality was consistent with the latest research. "Liking" is very mechanical, he explains, so it provides an easy way for us to make a public statement that reflects the way we think and behave. And research shows that people feel happier when they can get others to view them as they see themselves, so they want to make their profiles as accurate as possible.

Glancing at someone's profile can give us information we may not normally find out about them until after several conversation, so tools like Facebook can help us judge someone quickly when choosing a date, a roommate, or an employee, says Gosling. Think you know someone really well? Check out their profile and you may just be surprised. (Rethinking your OK Cupid profile? See What He Really Thinks About Your Online Dating Profile.)

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