Major language study culls data from Facebook

A group of University of Pennsylvania scientists studied the Facebook posts of 75,000 volunteers to discover the words people in different groups use.


Facebook can tell us so much about the words we use.

According to a University of Pennsylvania study published in the journal PLOS One, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network can help us analyze the human personality.

About 75,000 volunteers allowed U. Penn researchers to dig through their posts to find linguistic patterns. In total, the research team dealt with 700 million words, phrases and topic instances.

From PLOS One:

Our technique leverages what people say in social media to find distinctive words, phrases, and topics as functions of known attributes of people such as gender, age, location, or psychological characteristics.

And the results?

Well, the researchers came up with word clouds that “provide an unprecedented window into the psychological world of people with a given trait.”

Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center, put it this way:

When I ask myself, “What’s it like to be an extrovert?” “What’s it like to be a teenage girl?” “What’s it like to be schizophrenic or neurotic?” or “What’s it like to be 70 years old?” these word clouds come much closer to the heart of the matter than do all the questionnaires in existence.

Check out one of the word clouds, which showcases the differences between men and women’s posts, below:

(Image via)

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