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Section: New Results

Inference of human personality from mobile phones datasets

Participants : Adriano Di Luzio [Sapienza U. di Rome] , Aline Carneiro Viana, Julinda Stefa [Sapienza U. di Rome] , Katia Jaffres-Runser [U. of Toulouse] , Alessandro Mei [Sapienza U. di Rome] .

Related to human behavioral studies, personality prediction research has enjoyed a strong resurgence over the past decade. Due to the recognition that personality is predictive of a wide range of behavioral and social outcomes, the human migration to the digital environment renders also possible to base prediction of individual personality traits on digital records (i.e., datasets) mirroring human behaviors. In psychology, one of the most commonly used personality model is the Big5, based on five crucial traits and commonly abbreviated as OCEAN: Openness (O), Conscientiousness (C), Extroversion (E), Agreeableness (A), and Neuroticism (N). They are relatively stable over time, differ across individuals, and, most importantly, guide our emotions and our reactions to life circumstances. It is so for social and work situations, and even for things as simple as the way we use our smartphone. For instance, a person that is curious and open to new experiences will tend to look continuously for new places to visit and thrills to experience.

This work brings the deepest investigation in the literature on the prediction of human personality (i.e., captured by the Big5 traits) from smartphone data describing daily routines and habits of individuals. This work shows that human personality can be accurately predicted by looking at the data generated by our smartphones. GPS location, calls, battery usage and charging, networking context like bluetooth devices and WiFi access points in proximity, and more give enough information about individual habits, reactions, and idiosyncrasies to make it possible to infer the psychological traits of the user. We demonstrate this by using machine learning techniques on a dataset of 55 volunteers who took a psychological test and allowed continuous collection of data from their smartphones for a time span of up to three years. Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (the so called Big5 personality traits) can be predicted with good accuracy even by using just a handful of features. The possible applications of our findings go from network optimization, to personal advertising, and to the detection of mental instability and social hardship in cities and neighborhoods. We also discuss the ethical concerns of our work, its privacy implications, and ways to tradeoff privacy and benefits.

A paper describing this work is under submission at ACM Transactions on Data Science (TDS) , but a technical report is also registered under the name hal-01954733.