It’s often been said that the eyes are the window to the soul, revealing what we think and how we feel. Now, new research reveals that your eyes may also be an indicator of your personality type, simply by the way they move. Artificial intelligence is about to get a lot better at working out human behaviour. Recently Australian researchers have revealed an AI the can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes, as reported by Mark Prigg in DailyMail.

Researchers say minute movements give away four of the big 5 personality traits: neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The research team claims that the work could revolutionise how we communicate with machines. “There’s certainly the potential for these findings to improve human-machine interactions,” University of South Australia researchers Dr Tobias Loetscher said. “People are always looking for improved, personalised services.  However, today’s robots and computers are not socially aware, so they cannot adapt to non-verbal cues.” This research provides opportunities to develop robots and computers so that they can become more natural, and better at interpreting human social signals.”

Developed by the University of South Australia in partnership with the University of Stuttgart, Flinders University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, the research uses state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithms to demonstrate a link between personality and eye movements. Researchers tracked the eye movements of 42 participants as they undertook everyday tasks and subsequently assessed their personality traits using questionnaires.  They found that curious people tend to look around more. Open-minded people stare at abstract images for longer periods of time. neurotic personalities usually blink faster. People who are open to new experiences moved their eyes more from side-to-side. People who have high levels of conscientiousness have greater fluctuations in their pupil size. They found that optimists spend less time looking at negative emotional stimuli (such as image of skin cancer) than people who were pessimistic.

This technology could be put in smartphones that understand and predict our behaviour, potentially offering personalised support. They could also be used by robot companions for older people or in self-driving cars. Dr Loetscher says the findings also provide an important bridge between tightly controlled laboratory studies and the study of natural eye movements in real-world environments. “This research has tracked and measured the visual behaviour of people going about their everyday tasks, providing more natural responses than if they were in a lab. And thanks to our machine-learning approach, we not only validate the role of personality in explaining eye movement in daily life, but also reveal new eye movement characteristics as predictors of personality traits.”

Machines, especially AI, can help us to know ourselves better and predict human behaviour.  These tips may be helpful in general terms. At the same time we cannot afford to absolutise it. It is very dangerous to let a machine predict our personality and suggest remedial courses.

While appreciating the tremendous growth today artificial intelligence enabled technology offers, we need to be highly sensitive to the transcendental, mysterious and humane nature of human persons. We are “ends in ourselves,” not instrumental means, as the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, reminds us.

(The writer is professor of science and religion and author of Death: Live it!)

Kuruvilla Pandikattu