I have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master's in School Counseling, so it's likely that I have a clear interest in human behavior. While I tend to be most interested in the Mystery genre when it comes to reading for pleasure, I will occasionally choose books to read that give me insight into the career path that I have ultimately chosen. Hence, my latest read, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Watching) by Christian Rudder.
This novel was born from the loads of statistical information collected via the online behavior of millions of people. See, the author is actually one of the founders of the dating website OkCupid, and is also a mathematician. Put those two things together, and you have some great data about human behavior! I have always really loved math and statistics, and obviously, human behavior, so I was sucked right into this book. Much of the information isn't necessarily surprising, however, it does give you a peek into the potentially disturbing world we live in. And it also opens your eyes to how much data our social media activity can predict about who we are as individuals. Overall, it's very fascinating how unique we all are, yet how predictable our behaviors can.
One quote that summarizes what much of the book about is, "Unfortunately, surveys have historically been unable to uncover true attitudes on topics such as race, sexual behavior drug use, and even bodily functions, because respondents edit their answers. ... And often the ugliest, most divisive, attitudes remain behind a veil of ego and cultural norms that is almost impossible to draw back, at least through direct questioning. It's a social scientist's curse-what you most want to get at is exactly what your subjects are most eager to hide." Essentially, most forms of data collection always have some sort of user bias. In this book you see a less-biased view of information because it comes from internet user searches and on-line behaviors that people likely consider to be "when no one is looking". Surprise! There are people looking and analyzing this data all of the time.
Overall, this was a very quick read, and very interesting, so I give it 8 stars: