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The World Well-Being Project

The World Well-Being Project (WWBP) is a group of computer scientists, psychologists, and statisticians collaborating to develop new techniques for measuring psychological and medical well-being based on language in social media. They are shedding new light on how psychosocial processes affect health and happiness, and developing unobtrusive well-being measures to supplement--and in part replace--expensive survey methods. Ultimately, they hope that their insights and analyses will help individuals, organizations, and governments choose actions and policies that are not just in the best economic interest of the people or companies, but which truly improve their well-being. 

In one recent study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, 75,000 people voluntarily completed a common personality questionnaire through a Facebook application and made their Facebook status updates available for research purposes. The researchers then looked for overall linguistic patterns in the volunteers’ language.

Their analysis allowed them to generate computer models that were able to predict the individuals’ age, gender and their responses on the personality questionnaires they took. These prediction models were surprisingly accurate. For example, the researchers were correct 92 percent of the time when predicting users’ gender based only on the language of their status updates.

The success of this “open” approach suggests new ways of researching connections between personality traits and behaviors and measuring the effectiveness of psychological interventions.

See the project website for more details.


Penn News: Penn Researchers Use Facebook Data to Predict Users’ Age, Gender and Personality Traits

Penn Current: Penn researchers use Facebook as psychology tool

Wired: Study: status update language used to predict Facebook users' age, gender, personality

Slate: Scientists Used Facebook For the Largest Ever Study of Language and Personality