Here at the World Well-Being Project, we have done many crowdsourcing experiments over the past years. Often times, we are interested not only in what the workers annotate, but also in these workers themselves. For example, in a short paper  we have shown that females are better and more confident than males in guessing gender from tweets, especially when it comes to guessing females.
Similarly, many surveys are done over a non-random selection of participants. This is for example a problem in exit-polls, where a non-random population agrees to share their voting preference, leading to the need for pollsters to perform corrections a posteriori. Moreover, in online studies where users are anonymous, not all will agree to disclose self-identifying or personal information. Using data from our studies on the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, we aimed to uncover which users are more likely to voluntarily disclose their identity.
Continue reading What traits enable crowd-workers to voluntarily disclose their identity?
Owning a pet is very popular in the U.S. The most recent survey from the American Pet Products Association estimated that 65% of American households (79.9 million) include at least one pet. The most popular household pets are, unsurprisingly, dogs (44% of households) and cats (34.9% of households) .
Psychologists have long been fascinated to uncover whether individual differences drive pet ownership and preference. Most have focused on comparing the so called cat and dog people. Perhaps driven by the natures of their respective favorite pet, cat people are stereotyped as quiet, sensitive, and unorthodox while dog people are thought of as gregarious and energetic. One of the most comprehensive studies to-date  analysed 4,565 participants who took the Big Five personality Inventory and self-identified as dog people, cat people, both or neither. They found that dog people are higher in extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness and lower in neuroticism and openness, even when controlling for gender differences. Contrary to these findings, some failed to uncover differences between the two types  or suggested the labels do little more than offer a different way of saying masculine and feminine .
To shed new light on this debate, we analysed two different online behaviors using big data from social media:
- Mentioning animal names in Facebook posts;
- Using a profile picture featuring cat or a dog on Twitter.
Continue reading Personality Profiles of ‘Cat’ and ‘Dog People’ in Social Media
Moral Foundation Theory
Although almost everyone agrees that some things are morally good and some things are morally bad, the specific form of these beliefs can differ throughout the population. What is egregious to one person: harming marginalized communities, banning sugary soft drinks, refusing to go to church, etc.; can be considered completely trivial or even be endorsed by someone else.
The Moral Foundations Theory [1,2,3] was developed to model and explain these differences. Under this theory, there are a finite number of basic, moral values that people can intuitively support, but not necessarily to the same extent across the population. The five moral foundations are:
The valuation of compassion, kindness, and warmth, and the derogation of malice, deliberate injury, and inflicting suffering.
The endorsement of equality, reciprocity, egalitarianism, and universal rights.
Valuing patriotism and special treatment for ones own ingroup.
The valuation of extant or traditional hierarchies or social structures and leadership roles.
Disapproval of dirtiness, unholiness, and impurity.
Under this theory, a person who strongly endorses the value of ‘Care/Harm’ will be appalled at an action that causes suffering, while someone who endorses ‘Authority’ will support an action that supports the social hierarchy. These responses would be immediate, emotional, and intuitive.
Continue reading Moral Foundations in Partisan News Sources
We study social media with the assumption that people reveal “who they are” when they post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: that men write more like men than women do, that extraverts look extraverted, depressed people depressed, and happy people happy. But do people present their “true selves” on Facebook and Twitter?
Of course not. Twelve year olds pretend to be thirteen — otherwise they are kicked off. And people don’t always share their embarrassing medical conditions or their illicit drug use–although they do share both surprisingly often.
Of course people want to look good. It is claimed that on dating sites like OKCupid, people on average inflate their height by two inches and their income by 20%. And, of course, they pick attractive — and sometime out of date — photos of themselves. Narcissists, on average post more photos of themselves to Facebook and edit them more often than the rest of us.
In fact, it’s not clear if people ever present their true selves–or have true selves to present. You don’t need to be a psychologist to know that simple questions like: “Are you a racist?” “Do you think I’m fat?” or even “How old are you?” do not always elicit honest answers. Sociologist Irving Goffman in his book The presentation of self in everyday life famously observed that we are always acting: when a waiter comes out of the door from the kitchen into the dining room, he puts on a persona for the diners, but when he goes back into the kitchen he doesn’t become ‘his true self’ — he just shows a different persona for the kitchen staff. We all behave differently with our friends than with our colleagues or parents. We’re always presenting ourselves on some stage.
Continue reading Presentation of Self in Social Media
What do our Facebook posts really say about us? Some dismiss them as just noise, but several research teams are seriously considering social media as a source of psychological data. A common goal of this work is to discover faster or cheaper ways to measure important but elusive variables, like personality, health, and happiness. At the World Well-Being Project, we focus on turning the language from social media into useful new measures.
For example, in a study published last year in PLoS ONE, we searched for traces of age, gender, and personality in a massive amount of social media language: 20 million status updates from 75,000 Facebook users. We found that users’ personality traits could be accurately predicted using only the words in their Facebook status updates. This is consistent with several recent studies [1-6] that suggest that statistical algorithms are surprisingly good at profiling our personalities, especially when they are fed psychologically-rich information like the structure of our Facebook social network or our Facebook likes.
Does this mean that algorithms will replace personality questionnaires?
Continue reading Assessing the assessment: Measuring personality with Facebook status messages