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Language Variations Gathered from Facebook Users

A University of Pennsylvania study of 75,000 Facebook users identified interesting differences in language by personality, gender, and age. 


This is the largest study of language and personality, and it reveals, for example, that a Faceboook user's gender can be predicted with 92% accuracy just based on words used in status updates. According to the authors, language also predicts age within three years more than 50% of the time and personality (based on questionnaires).

Comparing extraverts' and intraverts' language, for example, we see some obvious differences—and some that are surprising. A graduate student who contributed to the study explained,

"It may seem obvious that a super extraverted person would talk a lot about parties, but taken altogether, these word clouds provide an unprecedented window into the psychological world of people with a given trait. Many things seem obvious after the fact and each item makes sense, but would you have thought of them all, or even most of them?"


The study raises interest in the "open vocabulary" to research rather than giving subjects a list of pre-determined words.

Discussion Starters:
  • What surprises you about the word choices of each group?
  • How do you do see your own language choices reflected in these examples?
  • What other applications could you see for the "open vocabulary" approach to research?