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AI can predict your personality simply by scanning your eyes

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Using machine learning, scientists discovered a connection between people's personalities and eye movements.
Using machine learning, scientists discovered a connection between people’s personalities and eye movements.

Image: johannes eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Eyes really do tell a story.

Using machine learning, earlier this year scientists discovered a connection between people’s personalities and their eye movements. They then deployed artificial intelligence to track and analyze the eye movements of 42 students. They announced the results last week.

Of course, the scientists found a correlation, because why wouldn’t AI figure out how predictable humans are?

The new technology can detect four of the “Big Five” basic personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, and neuroticism. It could not judge openness to experience.

The good news, according to one of the researchers, is that this finding could improve how humans and machines interact. If the machine can interpret what a person is like, the thought is, it can act accordingly. 

“People are always looking for improved, personalized services,” said University of South Australia senior lecturer Tobias Loetscher, who served as the lead researcher of the global team — which also included the University of Stuttgart, Flinders University, and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany — that worked on this study.

“However, today’s robots and computers are not socially aware, so they cannot adapt to non-verbal cues. This research provides opportunities to develop robots and computers so that they can become more natural, and better at interpreting human social signals.”

On the more negative side, this discovery also screams of privacy implications.

Imagine Facebook, which has already patented eye-tracking softwares, selling this information in another Cambridge Analytica-like scandal. Targeted advertising could be taken to a whole new level, and websites would have uncomfortably personal information of its visitors.

Here are some personality traits related to eye movements (as outlined in a report the team of researchers published earlier this year, which led to their experiment results announced last week). Which one are you? 

  • Curious: look around more

  • Open-minded: stare at abstract images for longer periods of time

  • Neurotic: blink faster

  • Open to new experiences: move their eyes from side-to-side more

  • More conscientiousness: have greater pupil size changes

  • Optimistic: spend less time looking at negative emotional things compared to people who are pessimistic

Although these are fun (and freaky) things to think about, keep in mind that eye movement patterns aren’t determinants for these character traits. These are simply tendencies that the researchers found had a correlation.

Watch where you look, kids!

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