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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. 

Facebook-study_language-word-clouds_gender

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?"

Word-clouds

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?