Psychometrics Is On The Way To Change The World
In the 1980s, a team of four psychologists set the stone rolling for the establishment of the Big Five Model – one that would turn the world upside down in 2016.
The Big Five Model has its roots in psychometrics. Psychometrics is a psychological field which assesses traits such as one’s personality. The Big Five classifies people into personality types based their openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism – known as OCEAN. Based on this information, accurate assumptions can be made about their personality.
When Michael Kosinski was a PhD student at Cambridge University, he launched a Facebook application called MyPersonality app. The app allowed people to answer psychometric questions, including some from the Big Five Model. Millions of people had filled the questionnaire and revealed insights into their personalities.
Everything you do online leaves a digital footprint. What you like on Facebook, your retweets, the transactions you make online – everything can be connected back to an individual person. With the psychometric profiles, and information about what a person’s Facebook “likes” were, Kosinski was able to make reliable deductions. For example, men who “liked” the cosmetic brand MAC were more likely to be gay, etc. Individually, such pieces of information hold little merit but when you connect the dots, they can give you insights to make accurate predictions.
Eventually, Kosinski’s model was able to make correlations with the number of contacts someone had, or information from motion sensors on smartphones interpreting people’s traveling habits. He was able to make reverse searches for groups of people based on traits they had in common – such as people who were on the fence about voting for a particular party.
In 2014, Kosinski was approached by an “election management agency” specialising in psychological marketing that was interested in his work. SCL had been involved in multiple global events, such as elections in Ukraine and Nigeria. Its latest activity was the creation of Cambridge Analytica – a company that would go on to influence Brexit as well as the US Presidential Election with micro targeting – innovative political marketing based on a person’s digital footprints combined with the OCEAN model.
The company had profiled every adult in the United States of America, using personal information such as shopping data, club memberships, etc. as well as surveys on social media and Facebook Data.
All of Trump’s social media messages were backed up with this data. Trump’s campaign also used this data to keep supporters of Clinton away from the ballots. People in the Miami district of Little Haiti, were seeing ads that highlighted the failure of the Clinton Foundation after the Haiti earthquake. Cambridge Analytica was changing the face of mass communication.
The potential of personality based advertising was visible with its influence on the result of the US Presidential Elections. Statisticians and forecasters paid little heed to what this interdisciplinary merger between psychometrics and targeting could do. If at the brink of application, the tides of major world events were turned, there is no telling the way the future unfolds……