A study of the digital gadgets we use to call, calendar, and connect reveals that they can accurately record the nuances of our relationships. Talk about Big Sister!

MIT Professor Sandy Pentland PhD '82.

Professor Sandy Pentland PhD '82.

A New Scientist article, reporting the work by MIT Professor Sandy Pentland PhD ’82 and two colleagues, described how matching the patterns of phone calls and phone locations allowed researchers to predict with 95 percent accuracy who the subjects would describe as close friends. That part is not so surprising. If the phones were together for several hours on a Saturday night, their owners were likely to be buddies.

However, researchers were also able to use the phone data to evaluate job satisfaction. “Those who reported themselves less satisfied were less likely to have friends in close proximity and more likely to call friends during work hours.” The phone data were more accurate than owners in describing how much time they spent with friends versus acquaintances. The owners overestimated the time they spent with friends.

Curious for more info on human patterns? Watch Pentland’s presentation to the 2009 Davos assembly on ideas in his new book, Honest Signals.