What Does Google Autocomplete Tell Us About Anxiety (And Our Relationship With It)?I really like Google’s autocomplete feature because it makes me feel like I’m rifling through the world’s garbage.

That sounds weird, I know. Let me explain further: A curbside trash bag filled with old to-do lists, kitchen waste, and empty product packages can teach you a lot about the creator of the waste.

If you snoop hard enough, you can likely determine all sorts of details about the person — and their culture — based upon what they toss in the trash.

It’s like archeology. Dirty and stinky, yes, but still archeology.

Searching Google and seeing that little autocomplete drop-down menu can be as revealing as trash, albeit in a more anonymized way. You can use it to take the pulse of the English-speaking world on virtually any topic, from religion to famous tech leaders to anything else, like this:

Or like this:

We turn to Google for these common problems, and as a result, Google learns to expect these recurring search queries. From Search Engine Land:

These are all real searches that have been done by other people. Popularity is a factor in what Google shows. If lots of people who start typing in “coupons” then go on to type “coupons for walmart,” that can help make “coupons for walmart” appear as a suggestion.

Google says other factors are also used to determine what to show beyond popularity. However, anything that’s suggested comes from real search activity by Google users, the company says.

Yup — real search activity. These autocompletes can provide a pretty interesting look at our fellow humans and what we find valuable. Or annoying. Or strange. Or worth searching for.

It can also tell us a thing or two about how, collectively, we feel about anxiety:

And panic attacks:

We can even use autocomplete to learn about others’ anxiety and panic triggers:

And, we can discover which physiological symptoms seem to resonate most with the masses:

(If you’re wondering about #3 above — which, technically, is #2 — Google Scholar’s got the most legit data.)

Have you discovered any interesting autocompletes related to other aspects of mental health? Let me know in the comments!

 


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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: July 16, 2013 | World of Psychology (July 16, 2013)






    Last reviewed: 15 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2013). What Does Google Autocomplete Tell Us About Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 1, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2013/07/what-does-google-autocomplete-tell-us-about-anxiety-and-our-relationship-with-it/

 

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