Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

There are some things we believe in that turn out to be true.

There are also some things we believe in that we know might not be true but make for very good stories.

(Hey, it's a strategy that even get us elected to high office.)

For a long time, researchers believed in romance. They insisted they'd found evidence of an aspect of romantic relationships that most people wanted to believe.

Now along comes a Stanford psychologist -- it would be Stanford, wouldn't it? -- to, well, disrupt our fantasies.

Michal Kosinski and his fellow researchers thought they might see whether it was really true that opposites attract.

So many Hollywood movies have led us to adore the idea. So many times we create entertainment out of how our lovers -- and even our business partners -- are completely unlike us.

Kosinski and his fellow academics have a response. Roughly translated: "Oh, you foolish human, you."

The researchers decided that the problem with much of this sort of research was that people self-reported details of their own personalities.

Given that we know people are largely full of self-aggrandizing wind, why would scientists believe it?

Kosinski's alternative, however, might also incite a chuckle. It's Facebook.

The researchers analyzed "those 'likes' that users click to show their approval of someone else's posts or opinions, and their word choices in their own posts and responses."

And what they found is that people surround themselves with those who bear remarkable similarities to themselves.

You imagined that this was true only when it comes to politics? Not so, say these large minds.

Kosinski says that when you look at years' worth of Facebook data, it's much harder for people to fake who they really are.

He insists that previously people were blinded by the so-called "reference-group effect."

This means that they describe their personalities only relative to their immediate surrounding group. Worse, in most research situations, people know they're being studied, so they fake who they really are.

I still worry.

Despite the profits earned by psychologists the world over, I'm not sure people know who they really are until relatively late in life. I'm also not sure that the constant emissions on Facebook necessarily reveal anything other than people doing what makes them appear their most positive, wonderful selves.

Still, Kosinski believes that these results may have a profound influence on how business teams are put together.

"In a team, you need some thinkers, some doers, some leaders, and some followers. All those labels are good for management non-scientists. But it wasn't understood before now that you should or could be matching people based on personalities," he said.

I wonder if he and his researchers are remarkably similar. Might this have influenced their work? Did they check each other's Facebook histories before deciding to work together?

There's one even more disturbing implication to come out of this.

It's bad enough that HR people are trawling through Facebook histories before they hire candidates.

Now, they'll be trawling through even more years of social media and matching these histories with other people's social media histories.

Yes, if you want a job, make your Facebook feed the same as the CEO's and the head of HR's.

And suddenly you'll have the job of your dreams.

Published on: Mar 10, 2017