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David Stillwell

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David Stillwell

Reader in Computational Social Science
Academic Director of the Psychometrics Centre

BSc, MSc, PhD (University of Nottingham)

Research interests

Psychometrics; psychology; decision-making; social networks.

Subject group: Organisational Behaviour

Professional experience

David’s research uses big data to understand psychology. He published papers showing using social media data from millions of consenting individuals to show that the computer can predict a user’s personality as accurately as their spouse can. Follow-up research found that personalising an advert to the recipient’s psychology is more effective than generic ads.

This research has important public policy implications. Do consumers prefer their online experieces to be customised? How should consumers’ data be used to target them? Should regulators step in, and if so how?

David has spoken at workshops organised by the EU Data Protection Supervisor, by the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel, to UK government regulators, and to the Bank of England. His research has also been cited by many governments’ national data protection regulators worldwide.

David has also published research using various big data sources such as credit card data and textual data to show that spending money on products and services that match one’s personality leads to greater life satisfaction, that people tend to date others who have a similar personality, and that people who swear seem to be more honest.

David does consultancy on the topics of psychometrics, people analytics, and big data. He has worked on projects with companies including Amazon Payments, Barclays, Hilton Hotels, RBS, Shell, and Ubisoft.

Selected publications

Visit David Stillwell’s profile on Google Scholar

While you watch the TV, the TV watches you

Four key principles for companies to use data targeting in a positive way. By Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data…

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No more ‘average’ consumer

Matching advertising images to personality traits can find the most suitable image for a particular customer and help win sales, finds a…

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How effective is psychological targeting in advertising? What we can learn about you from just one click.

Dr Sandra Matz, a former PhD student at Cambridge now based at Columbia University, and her co-authors, including Dr David Stillwell from…

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A quicker test for depression

When it comes to assessing depression, the usual paper-based questionnaires are long and frustrating for patients. University of Cambridge researchers found that…

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Opposites really DON’T attract

Study shows that ‘birds of a feather do flock together’ – finally providing scientific backing for the idea that people seek romantic…

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Is your profile picture ‘smart’?

Algorithms can predict a person's intelligence based on social network photos as accurately as humans can and without faulty stereotyping, says study…

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Frankly, do we give a damn…? Study finds links between swearing and honesty

It's long been associated with anger and coarseness but profanity can have another, more positive connotation. Psychologists have learned that people who…

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Facebook updates could provide a window to understanding – and treating – mental health disorders

Our Facebook status updates, 'likes' and even photos could help researchers better understand mental health disorders with the right ethical safeguards, argue…

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There really is a link between your Facebook posts and your personality

by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science, Cambridge Judge Business School Privacy campaigners this week…

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‘Data’ and popcorn

New exhibit at the Science Museum in London features research about our Big Data by Dr David Stillwell of Cambridge Judge Business…

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From academia to (off)-Broadway

David Stillwell is a big data academic at Cambridge Judge Business School. So why does he feature in a hit play at…

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Why Facebook knows you better than your mum

Who do you reckon knows you best? Your friends? Your children? Work colleagues? Turns out it's none of these. It's not even…

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Psychology Today: Are people who swear more honest?

A study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, Reader in Computational Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, on how people who swear…

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Publico: The scientist who exposed the power of Facebook

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, published an article in…

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Live Mint: Opinion: How the internet could end up wrecking Indian democracy

Research co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, is…

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RSVP Live: Study finds foul mouthed people are more likely to be honest and trustworthy

Psychologists have learned that people who frequently curse are being more honest, according to a study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University…

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New Scientist: I exposed how online profiling leaves us open to mass persuasion

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, talks about social media…

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Wired: This algorithm knows how you will vote based on the car you drive

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, comments on a study…

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MSN: This is what swearing says about you

Psychologists have learned that people who frequently curse are being more honest, according to a study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University…

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BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: The Naked Scientists

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics and Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, talks about research that says freely…

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The Guardian: One Facebook ‘like’ is all it takes to target adverts, academics find

Just one Facebook ‘like’ is enough for brands to start sending targeting advertisement to users. The study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell,…

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Business Insider: What Facebook ‘likes’ say about you

Research co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, finds that Facebook…

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Birmingham Mail: People who swear a lot are more honest

Psychologists have learned that people who frequently curse are being more honest, according to a study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University…

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Alphr: Money can buy happiness – but only if it’s used to buy ‘time’

Researchers in Canada found that people who use money to “buy back time” have greater life satisfaction than people who don't. It…

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The Atlantic: The dark side of that personality quiz you just took

A study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics and Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business Scholl,…

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Southern California public radio: The Loh down on science: Foul-mouthed facts

On her radio show Sandra Tsing Loh talks about the research paper “Frankly, we do give a damn the relationship between profanity…

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Forbes Middle East: Keeping our human edge in a machine-dominated world

In an article about humans losing control in a machine-dominated world, Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative…

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Los Angeles Daily News: Democrats’ curse words say more than they know

Research co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, found…

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Business Weekly: Data science summit highlights Cambridge’s tech magnetism

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and data will be discussed in the Cambridge Data Science Summit taking place on 9-10 June at the…

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New York Post: Facebook ‘likes’ are terrifyingly accurate window into your soul

Research co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, finds that Facebook…

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Science Alert: Good news, humans: Swearing can actually make you stronger

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, comments on his latest study which…

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BBC World Service: The Inquiry

Around two million people log in to Facebook every day, but what happens with the data we provide and what does the…

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Birmingham Mail: Why people who swear a lot are more honest?

Research co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School, found…

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INSEAD Knowledge: Our edge in a machine-dominated world

Annet Aris, INSEAD Adjunct Professor of Strategy, writes about artificial intelligence and how this affects our daily lives. Research co-authored by Dr…

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Cambridge Business Magazine: ‘Smart’ photos can be deceiving

A study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science, says algorithms can predict a…

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iNews: ‘Opposites attract’ is a myth: The truth about what brings friends and couples together

A study that found opposites don’t attract, co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics at Cambridge Judge Business…

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Grazia Daily: Five bad habits that actually mean you’re brilliant (according to science)

A study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, found that…

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BBC News: Big data unites the study of stars with cancer research

London's Science Museum is currently running an exhibition titled Our Lives in Data focusing on how data is collected, analysed and used.…

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Inc: Do you swear a lot? That may just mean you’re honest

People who swear are seen as more honest according to the study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data…

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BBC Radio 5 Live: Drive

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, talks about research that found opposites…

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The Times: Do opposites attract? Only in the movies

Hollywood movies are full of romantic storylines where people from opposite background fall in love and live happily ever after, but a…

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Cambridge News: Machines can predict our intelligence

Algorithms can predict a person’s intelligence based on social network photos as accurately as humans can and without faulty stereotyping, says a…

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The Telegraph: Foul-mouthed people are also the most honest, study finds

A study co-authored by Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School,…

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Elle: Is our pursuit of happiness getting in the way of our long term wellbeing?

Natasha Bird looks at the concept of happiness and what makes us happier. A study on happiness co-authored by Joe Gladstone and…

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Mail Online: Why not to mind your language

A study co-authored by David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, found that people…

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Cambridge Business Magazine: Prepare for a lengthy debate on use of social media data

The recent attempt by Admiral to tap Facebook users’ data in order to help set car insurance premiums is just the start…

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The Conversation: There really is a link between your Facebook posts and your personality

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, discusses how social media data such…

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BBC Radio 5: Drive

Dr David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, comments on plans by Admiral insurance,…

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The Guardian: What could Facebook target next? Our mental health data

Our Facebook status updates, “likes” and even photos could help researchers better understand mental health disorders with the right ethical safeguards, says…

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Medical Express: Facebook updates could help to understand mental health disorders

Our Facebook status updates, “likes” and even photos could help researchers better understand mental health disorders with the right ethical safeguards, says…

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The Wall Street Journal: The more cash people have, the happier they are

WSJ interview with Joe Gladstone, a PhD researcher at Cambridge Judge Business School, about research into money and happiness. Joe co-authored a…

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Cambridge News: From Cambridge University to Broadway with Daniel Radcliffe

Dr David Stillwell is an academic at University of Cambridge Judge Business School, so how did he end up on a New…

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Yahoo Finance: An algorithm can predict how smart you are based on your Facebook photo

A recent study co-authored by David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge Business School,…

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Cambridge Business Magazine: Study points to ‘happier’ e-commerce results

Money really can buy happiness when spending fits our personality, finds a pioneering “big data” study based on nearly 77,000 actual UK…

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New Scientist: What your social media profile picture says about your personality

Is it possible to determine user’s personality by social media profile pictures? David Stilwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative…

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World Economic Forum: Can money buy you happiness? It depends on how you spend it

Money can buy happiness when spending fits our personality, finds study by University of Cambridge researchers based on 77,000 real bank spending…

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The Washington Post: Money can buy happiness – if you know how to use it

A new study from University of Cambridge looked at almost 77,000 transactions of 625 participants and found that people who spent more…

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BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: News

Sandra Matz, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge’s Psychology Department, discusses the new study that says that money can buy…

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CNBC: Study: Money does buy happiness

New research based on 77,000 real bank spending transactions finds that money can buy happiness when spending fits our personality. The study…

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The Independent: Money could buy you happiness if the item matches your personality

A new study co-authored at Cambridge Judge Business School and the University of Cambridge’s Psychology Department says that money can buy you…

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ITV News: Study finds money can buy you happiness

Money can buy happiness when spending fits our personality, finds study by University of Cambridge researchers based on 77,000 real bank spending…

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The Telegraph: Money CAN buy happiness – if you spend in the right way

A new study from University of Cambridge looked at almost 77,000 transactions of 625 participants and found that people who spent more…

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HR Magazine: Can software profile people better than HR?

Rob Gray investigates how software and digital data can be used in HR, i.e. for screening job applications. The article mentions a…

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Cambridge TV: Big data

Data selection from many outlets can have a big impact in our daily lives. David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics…

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The Huffington Post: Companies should use data transparently

David Stillwell, University Lecturer in Big Data Analytics & Quantitative Social Science at Cambridge Judge, looks at how companies use people’s data…

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The Wall Street Journal: Facebook ‘likes’ mean a computer knows you better than your mother

University of Cambridge researchers have developed an app that can estimate users’ personality based solely on Facebook ‘likes.’ The app can guess…

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The Independent: What does Facebook know? New app uses what you ‘like’ to predict your personality

The app ‘Apply Magic Sauce’ developed at the University of Cambridge can estimate a Facebook user’s intelligence, religious and political views, age…

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Contact details

David Stillwell
Cambridge Judge Business School
University of Cambridge
Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1AG
UK

Tel: +44 (0)1223 339687

[email protected]