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March 13, 2015
By Lisa Dare


Like curly fries? You probably have a higher than average IQ. 

Scientists studying whether Facebook “likes” could be used to uncover deeper truths about users came up with two surprising results. First, the info you reveal through liking TV shows, napping and other innocuous preferences can reveal a lot about you. Second, there’s a strong correlation between expressing a like for curly fries and having a high IQ (go figure).

Using predictive modeling, researchers were able to infer traits such as sexual orientation, IQ, political and religious affiliations, substance abuse, and even whether your parents divorced while you were a child. Some of the connections were obvious—those who liked President Obama tended to be Democrats—but many, like the link between curly fries and intelligence, were mysterious.

Using digital data to build profiles of people has long been the domain of digital marketers. But the more academic field of cyberpsychology uses similar tactics for much different purposes.

What is cyberpsychology?

The new "CSI: Cyber" show may overstep the bounds of reality, but it does have a basis in reality. The main character is modeled on a real-life cyberpsychologist in Ireland who uses her knowledge of digital behavior to help identify organized cyber criminals, and individuals like cyberstalkers and harassers.

Cyberpsychology is a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and predicting digital behavior that draws on knowledge of computers, criminology, psychology, statistics and other disciplines. 

Some parts of cyberpsychology study how the conditions particular to the digital world affect people’s behavior. For instance, the ability to remain anonymous can lead people to commit cyberbullying they wouldn’t be tempted to replicate in real life, or to engage in more impulsive behaviors.  

Another area of study, which crosses into cyber forensics, is how to track digital footprints, or the particular behaviors of criminal organizations and individuals. It involves detecting patterns in criminals' operating modes, such as how they organize folder structures and which coding languages they use. It can also encompass patterns revealed by the time of day the crime occurred, duration of the attack, nicknames used, whether and how criminals used social engineering, and the choice of victims. For an excellent overview of these techniques, read this publication: Digital scene of crime: technique of profiling users.

Interesting in reading more posts like this? Read The coolest jobs in IT

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