What Google searches reveal about the human psyche

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Studies have shown that scrolling through Facebook or Instagram can leave people feeling depressed and lonely.

But former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz says that you shouldn’t let social media make you feel bad about your life. He spent five years sifting through Google search data for his PhD in economics.

He tells The Current‘s Anna Maria Tremonti that the experience left him feeling less insecure about his own life and more compassionate about others.

Stephens-Davidowitz believes that internet searches offer unique insight into the human psyche because people type things into Google that they would never admit in a survey … or possibly even to themselves.

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For instance, he says there have historically been more searches for pornography than for weather on the internet, but only a minority of people admit to watching pornography.

Seth Stephen-Davidowitz

Former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz spent five years sifting through Google search data for his PhD in economics. (HarperCollins)

In his book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, Stephens-Davidowitz explores what internet search data reveals about everything from sex and politics to health and happiness.

“The number one thing that Google tells us is how little sex people are having,” he says.

There are political insights to be gleaned from the data too.

Stephens-Davidowitz suggests there were signs that voter turnout for Hillary Clinton would be down because the number of internet searches for voting information were down from the previous election — especially in majority black neighbourhoods.

Stephens-Davidowitz says that he was shocked to learn how many people search the internet for racist content. And he argues that there is a direct correlation between racist internet searches and the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s really clear in this data that racism played a huge role in Trump’s rise, even though people wouldn’t admit that.”

Listen to their conversation at the top of the web post.

This segment was produced by The Current’s Kristin Nelson.

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What Google searches reveal about the human psyche

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