Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You

by Sam Gosling

Grade: 3 stars

Thoughts: Gosling, a professor of psychology, talks about how people's belongings can give you information about their personality. Quite a fascinating topic, I think. Although there was much less actually about that topic than I was expecting. Much of this book was taken up explaining a current theory of personality types and other such background information. I would have liked more actual data and scientific studies.

Nonetheless, there were some very interesting tidbits of information you could pick up, especially when it wasn't about what people's stuff actually says about them, but what other people think people's stuff says about them. For example, people think "the presence of art and books on art [infers] that occupants leaned to the Left" (politically). But that's not the case at all (although sports-related decor does correlate with leanings to the Right). (page 6) There were several long tables comparing what observers relied on to make judgments about people's personalities, and what they should have relied on. (page 93, 99, 172, & 182)  As a short example: people thought a bedroom's occupant was high on the neuroticism personality trait when the air in their bedroom was stale. In actuality, there is no correlation, although people with high neuroticism do tend to have more inspirational posters. (pg. 172)

Here are a couple other interesting things I learnt:
--The order in which you tell someone something, or see something in someone's house, really does matter. (Such as the example of estimating products with the large numbers first vs. small numbers (pg. 188).) This seems obvious, but it's something I unfortunately tend to miss sometimes in conversation.
--I was also reminded again about hindsight bias. If Gosling showed an audience the results of studies first, instead of asking them to guess the results, they were not nearly as surprised. (pg. 6)

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