Do your friends check themselves out in the mirror more than five times a day? Would they be willing to pay higher taxes to support universal health care? Do they believe in heaven?
Although we share some of our most intimate secrets with friends, at times it's startling to realize how little we know about them. The Human Social Dynamics group at Yahoo! Research has just launched Friend Sense, a Facebook application that measures how much people know about their friends' attitudes and beliefs. It is surprisingly fun to play--even a little addictive--especially when your friends start playing as well.
We were inspired to create Friend Sense by a remarkable finding in political sociology. Despite increasingly polarized political parties and ideological rhetoric, most Americans are neither consistently “liberal” nor “conservative.” In contrast to our image of a country divided into red states and blue states, America is unexpectedly purple. To give just one example, knowing someone’s view on affirmative action gives you little insight into their attitude on the death penalty. Friend Sense is both a test bed for our theories of political attitudes, and a compelling Facebook app that gives people a rare view into what their friends, family members, and co-workers think.
The Human Social Dynamics team, part of the Microeconomics and Social Systems group of Yahoo! Research, is devoted to understanding the interplay between individual-level behavior and the social environment in which those actions inescapably play out. Our group is multi-disciplinary, drawing on tools from computer science, economics, statistics, sociology and psychology.
We hope you'll check out Friend Sense and invite your friends to play. And of course, we'd really value your feedback. Please don't hesitate to share your impressions.