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Friday, 4 May 2012

An interesting idea for a book. It claims we can deduce much about a person from their living or working space.

The book starts by detailing the big five traits of psychology

Openness - how willing you are to experience new things
Conscientiousness - organisation
Extraversion - outgoingness
Agreeableness - how much you like other people
Neuroticism - worrying

The book goes on to argue that you can read clues about these traits from people’s living space. However mostly it is on merely two of these traits. If a person is open they are likely to have a wide range of books and if a person is very tidy then they are likely to be conscientious.

In many ways the book seems to argue that snooping might not be so useful. In general people tend to underestimate context(except with regard to themselves), and the book argues it is hard to deduce much from a few cues. For example, a messy person can tidy up or certain items can belong to other people or company policy might change the way a person’s desk is set up, etc. And things such as music tastes or drinking tastes are less important than we imagine.

The big problem with this book is that it obvious that conscientious organised people are likely to have organised personal spaces and open people are likely to have interesting reading material. This book counsels against making big deductive jumps, but that rather limits the scope of snooping. Snooping can be quite good at determining gender and the attractiveness of people (by the photographs of their partners).

The book is quite long as the author goes into various anecdotes about experiment he has done with college students. It is actually quite interesting, although I found myself a bit disappointed at the end of the book to discover that there aren’t really a set of rules that turn us into super snoopers and that in practice it is not such a good way to find out about people.

I enjoyed this book, but it is a bit of a guilt pleasure kind of book than on that will change lives or offers much in the way of deep insight.