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, 112 (4), 1036-40

Computer-based Personality Judgments Are More Accurate Than Those Made by Humans


Computer-based Personality Judgments Are More Accurate Than Those Made by Humans

Wu Youyou et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.


Judging others' personalities is an essential skill in successful social living, as personality is a key driver behind people's interactions, behaviors, and emotions. Although accurate personality judgments stem from social-cognitive skills, developments in machine learning show that computer models can also make valid judgments. This study compares the accuracy of human and computer-based personality judgments, using a sample of 86,220 volunteers who completed a 100-item personality questionnaire. We show that (i) computer predictions based on a generic digital footprint (Facebook Likes) are more accurate (r = 0.56) than those made by the participants' Facebook friends using a personality questionnaire (r = 0.49); (ii) computer models show higher interjudge agreement; and (iii) computer personality judgments have higher external validity when predicting life outcomes such as substance use, political attitudes, and physical health; for some outcomes, they even outperform the self-rated personality scores. Computers outpacing humans in personality judgment presents significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; big data; computational social science; personality judgment; social media.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of interest statement: D.S. received revenue as the owner of the myPersonality Facebook application.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Methodology used to obtain computer-based judgments and estimate the self-other agreement. Participants and their Likes are represented as a matrix, where entries are set to 1 if there exists an association between a participant and a Like and 0 otherwise (second panel). The matrix is used to fit five LASSO linear regression models (16), one for each self-rated Big Five personality trait (third panel). A 10-fold cross-validation is applied to avoid overfitting: the sample is randomly divided into 10 equal-sized subsets; 9 subsets are used to train the model (step 1), which is then applied to the remaining subset to predict the personality score (step 2). This procedure is repeated 10 times to predict personality for the entire sample. The models are built on participants having at least 20 Likes. To estimate the accuracy achievable with less than 20 Likes, we applied the regression models to random subsets of 1–19 Likes for all participants.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Computer-based personality judgment accuracy (y axis), plotted against the number of Likes available for prediction (x axis). The red line represents the average accuracy (correlation) of computers’ judgment across the five personality traits. The five-trait average accuracy of human judgments is positioned onto the computer accuracy curve. For example, the accuracy of an average human individual (r = 0.49) is matched by that of the computer models based on around 90–100 Likes. The computer accuracy curves are smoothed using a LOWESS approach. The gray ribbon represents the 95% CI. Accuracy was averaged using Fisher’s r-to-z transformation.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
The external validity of personality judgments and self-ratings across the range of life outcomes, expressed as correlation (continuous variables; Upper) or AUC (dichotomous variables; Lower). The red, yellow, and blue bars indicate the external validity of self-ratings, human judgments, and computer judgments, respectively. For example, self-rated scores allow predicting network size with accuracy of r = 0.23, human judgments achieve r = 0.17 accuracy (or 0.06 less than self-ratings), whereas computer-based judgments achieve r = 0.24 accuracy (or 0.01 more than self-ratings). Compound variables (i.e., variables representing accuracy averaged across a few subvariables) are marked with an asterisk; see Table S4 for detailed results. Results are ordered by computer accuracy.

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