in Future, Futurist toolbox

Google trends and the state of the Western World

Inspired by this post in Google Blogoscoped (found via 43 Folders) and the statements that people are predictable I got reminded of the power of Google Trends. A service that let anyone look into the gathered statistics from probably the single largest information hub in the world. When the service was announced I sat for hours and draw graphs for different words and pondered the underlying reasons for strange correlations.

Today I tried the word “future” and inspired by the post mentioned above, the word “depression”.

Future-Depression-All-1

Interestingly enough there is definitely a correlation between the curves. It becomes most evident at the end of the year when searches for “future” goes up and search for “depression” goes down. But look at the use of the word future in the lower graph counting the occurrence of the words in the News flow. It seems to be a gradually and steady increase in use of the word “future” while the use of the word depression stays stable and much lower.

It suddenly struck me that maybe there could be a difference in the results for different nations when it comes to these words as well. When searching an English speaking country close to Sweden where I live (UK) the result was slightly different.

Future-Depression-Uk-1
What struck me here was that the search for both the word “future” and the word “depression” actually dipped close to the end of the year. The difference in volume between the use of the words seemed to be slightly closer than the graph above, and both graphs seems to slowly point downwards.
Searching other English speaking countries lead me to Canada.

Future-Depression-Canada-1

In Canada there seems to be a an even more different pattern. The searches for the word “future” peaks dramatically just before the end of the year and searches for the word “future” seems to be increasing over time.

What about the US?

Future-Depression-Us-1

Whoops, what a difference! The searches almost doesn’t differ in volume at all! Can we draw the conclusion that US is in a more volatile psychological state than both UK and Canada or what?

To me this seems to be significant results, but what does it really show about the state of the world or the state of the nations? Comments anyone?? Are there any elaborate sociological research around the Google Trends anywhere??

This was a brief search without any more elaborate analysis, but I think I will use Google Trends more as a thermometer when it has been more established.

And what about connecting GapMinder with Google Trends? That would be explosive!!

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  1. Denna analys anknyter kanske till en studie vid New York Unviversity där det framgår att vi människor har en stark tendens att vara mer optimistiska om framtiden än det som redan hänt. Testmänniskorna var faktiskt t.o.m. mycket obenägna att tänka sig negativa framtidsbilder. Allt avläsbart i känslohjärnan amygdata ocg den del av hjärnbarken som sitter bakom ögonen. Hos deprimerrade personer är just dessa delar av hjärnan nedregelerade och vi vet ju även att sådana personer är pessimistisaka. Läs mer på fof.se.

    En slutsats skulle därmed kunna vara att man är mer optiimistisk i Canada men mer deprimerade i USA (även om det låter som en typisk svensk syn på de två länderna).
    Uppgångarna påverkas kanske av julhelg, långledigheter och nyårslöften hos ganska nöjda människor.

  2. Yes, we tend in general to be more optimistical about the future. But if you look at the pattern Canada would be more optimistic than most other (English speeking) countries. That is still odd!

  3. Perhaps the Canadians are not searching for pages about the idea of future time, but for a CBC television program or such that contains the word “future”, something that appears at the end of every year. You have no idea what exactly someone meant when they used the term in a search. Searching for more information on the movie “Back to the Future” would be included, as would “pork belly futures”, not just “what does the future hold?”

  4. I agree, I don’t know anything about what they are searching for, but maybe I can learn something by asking? Maybe the Google guys can answer??