These are just a few of the pressing questions Googlers have asked this year. And while these queries do sound a bit ridiculous, we’ve all definitely had our moments turning to Google for answers to our wackiest, most embarrassing and personal thoughts. Most interestingly, we turn to Google for the answers, rather than our best friend, a family member or a professor — decidedly more accurate sources of information. The reason why may lie in the trust of Google’s undoubted ability to uphold anonymity and non-judgment.
Data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz argues that Google searches provide the most accurate, authentic look into the human psyche. Traditional data gathering, like surveys and interviews, falter in accuracy due to the “social-desirability bias,” the innate human tendency to lie in surveys in order to look good and stay consistent with the norm. For example, in a survey asking if people voted in an election, most people stated that they voted even if they didn’t. Google search data are anonymous, unfiltered with judgmental looks or biases from others; people say and ask whatever they want. Google can provide authentic data in social science analysis, particularly on more private, sensitive subjects, as people are no longer inhibited by their concerns of judgment and the status quo. So, what do our Google searches say about us?
Through Google searches, Stephens-Davidowitz has been able to deduce our true feelings concerning hot-button topics, like gender equality. Google searches revealed that American parents, even though they deny it, differ significantly in their expectations of their sons versus their daughters, inadvertently perpetuating gender norms. In fact, a parent is two and a half times more likely to Google “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” even though, girls are statistically 11 percent more likely to be in gifted programs than boys. This extreme bias toward the question “Is my son gifted?” implies that parents still maintain very different expectations and hopes for their sons and daughters. Moreover, parents are more likely to use Google to ask if their daughters meet beauty standards. The question “Is my daughter overweight?” is Googled roughly two times more than the question “Is my son overweight?” In reality, 30 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys are overweight, implying that the popularity of the question “Is my daughter overweight?” is a result of an overwhelming parental focus on girls’ appearances over boys’ appearances. Parents also ask if their daughter is ugly three times more than if their sons are, and if their daughter is beautiful one and a half times more.
These results all indicate that analysis of Google searches can reveal rather ugly truths about our opinions, despite adhering to societal norms in public. To truly uncover the undercurrents of any society in today’s world, Google may be the answer.