Study says Facebook can tell if you’re a psychopath

Maybe hold off before you post your next Facebook update: Researchers say they can determine whether you have psychopathic personality traits based on Facebook statuses.

Members of the research team from Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg and Lund University published their findings as “The dark side of Facebook: Semantic representations of status updates predict the Dark Triad of personality.” The “Dark Triad of personality” kind of sounds like a group of villains from a young adult fantasy novel, but it’s a group of three personality tests that can indicate narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. 

The researchers examined the status updates of 304 U.S. Facebook users after giving them personality tests. “We looked at people’s Facebook status updates and analyzed whether there was a relationship between the texts and people’s personality traits,” researcher Sverker Sikström told Swedish news site The Local. They found a connection between certain negative words, phrases, and subject matter and a tendency toward psychopathy. Sikström said Facebook users more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits tended to post about negatively charged subjects, like decapitation and pornography.

The research team was surprised that they could only predict the more problematic personality traits — they had a tougher time predicting positive personality traits like agreeableness and conscientiousness. Earlier this year, researchers in Virginia discovered that they could predict future happiness based on Facebook photos, so perhaps it’s easier to discern positive personality traits from images rather than text. 

The algorithm devised by the Swedish researchers to assess psychopathy and other bad traits can work on other social networks, too, so whether someone’s frequently posting links to violent stuff on Facebook or asserting their love for snuff films on Twitter, the way we talk on social media can be an indicator to serious personality problems. 

… So that weird guy from your high school who keeps posting beheading videos? You should probably defriend him. 

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