« Freakonomics Radio

286. How Big is My Penis? (And Other Things We Ask Google)

2017-05-11 | 🔗
On the Internet, people say all kinds of things they'd never say aloud -- about sex and race, about their true wants and fears. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has spent years parsing the data. His conclusion: our online searches are the reflection of our true selves. In the real world, everybody lies.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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For a particular racial epithet can spike. After a certain events, there was a big increase in searches when Obama was elected, it turns out. The Google search data can tell us a lot about ourselves. We may not even tell ourselves people just are in such a a bit of lying in their day to day life, people why to their partners or their kids or their parents and when you drill down into this ruthlessly honest database you're bound to be surprised. The top search that starts my husband wants in India is my husband. Stay breastfeed, her
from W, and why see studios this is freakin comics radio Applaud cast at explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your house, Stephen that now there have been quite a few prominent terrorist attacks in recent years. An explosion at the start to France, north of Paris early this morning, a weapon of mass murder. Slowly removed today eleven suffered a heroic attack. Nepal of a square. Most of these attacks have one thing in common: the enemy is, in fact radical Islam and ideology. Afterward politicians tend to encourage unity. London is the greatest city in the world and we stand together in the face of those who seek to homeless and destroy our way of life, and they incur just
not the queen islamist terrorism with Islam. The attacks have nothing to do with Islam, which is polish peacefully by millions of people around. How effective is this sort of encouragement? I do. I just tell me if I'm talking to long that is safe. Stevens developments are many Conniston data scientist at an author, and he has studied the effectiveness of this kind of political speech. This speech, for instance, grazing on Wednesday, for President Obama, was responding to a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, a muslim husband and wife shot and killed fourteen people and seriously injured another twenty two. We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America
and his long. This speech was really. I thought you'd have fallen kind of country moving. It's our responsibility to reject proposals that most Americans should somehow be treated differently, because We travel down that road, we lose and he talked about how important a religious tolerance has been to America and tell, and one has a responsibility to me- no, not yet interfere but really for appeal to freedom? and everybody has responsibility to not judge people based on religion and not give religious tests I want to find who entered this country shortly after the San Bernardino Attack, Stephens Davidowitz and a colleague of insult us published a piece in the New York Times called the rise of hate search. The primary evidence came from Google Search data so starts like kill Muslims and I hate,
Iceland and Muslims are evil or every real, real, really nasty searches. They looked at the frequency of that kind of search before, during and after a bomb. The speech we were founded upon a belief in human dignity is a very, very well received a speech. So did the speech curtail Anti Muslim, Google searches? We found it all. The searches during this beach actually went off where he was saying that it was our responsibility, reject fear, and it is our responsibility, not judge people based on religion. Let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional but no search against syrian refugees were going up and searches to kill Muslims are going up in search of rye hate. Muslims are going up so as to make everything that Obama was doing, even though all the traditional sources were saying that he was doing a great job was actually backfiring in terms of its real goal, which was to common angry mob. That had been inflamed by these San Bernardino attacks
so the book you ve written is called. Everybody lies big data, Data and what the internet can tell us about? Who we really are? I understand it's, not the title. You were wanting the title that want my book was: how big is my penis, what Google searches reveal about human nature. My publisher was like in Ireland, we will be embarrassed by that in an airport and what share of the data that you're writing about in the book? Is Google Data you, you have other sources as well. Yes, I'll go. Will data I use data from anonymous narrative data from a porn hub scraped, some websites, I scraped. I hate site storm front, I scraped Wikipedia. Are you some Facebook advertising data and some other sources,
and just tell us quickly year, academic back on what you studied and where I have a ba and philosophy from Stanford and a Phd in Economics from Harvard why'd. You study philosophy, just curious about it. I had big questions about the meaninglessness of life and the absurdity of the human condition and stuff. But there are really answered. I just got more and more depressed on them cited at. I stopped, but did your choice, in Vocational course Phd Economy now What you do now had they shed some light on the big existential and philosophical questions or just writer like ignore them, not not that about them, he didn't really ignore the big questions, but the human condition he just found a different window through which to seek the answers
I was getting my economics Phd and I found a Google had released, basically data on searches where people made searches when people made searches- and I got it- became obsessed with this data so point I really couldn't think about anything else afterwards, and I saw my dissertation was entirely on things. We could learn about people from Google searches, so I studied racism and child abuse and predicting turn out. That was my dissertation in two thousand and six Google. Began making its search data public through a tool called Google trends, but data is all and not of a scenario did so it's how many people make searches in a given city or giving state over some time period Stevens to video it's his insight, not that using only one with this insight was that within the privacy of their own internet browsers, people are more like
we to express their true preferences, then they would, in the traditional surveys and other data gathering methods, researchers historically use. Those are suspect to what as the social desirability bias so desire Ellie bias is basically that you want to look good in a survey. So instead of saying the truth, you say what is desirable. So anything that is socially unacceptable will be under reporting surveys. So it is a classic example that we know is, if you ask people if you voted in the previous election, a huge percentage of the people who don't vote say that they vote, because it's considered socially undesirable to not food, no election. How, then, do economists feel about surveys? Economists gonna hate surveys, because you can't really trust the people tell you. You have to see what they actually do. And you have to pay attention to incentives, so a problem with surveys: you don't really have any incentive to tell the truth: the, whereas
if your online, you have an incentive to tell the truth to get the information that you actually need considering that most surveys are done either anonymously year. With the Mena with someone that you have zero repeat: transactions with Why do you think the human animal is predisposed towards you know protecting or burning their reputation, even in a case where the stakes are like the they almost couldn't be. Our. Why do you think we do that people just are in such a habit of lying, In their day to day life people lie to their partners or their kids or their parents that these behaviors gonna carry over in service. How many lies, if you told me already in this conversation, I think, like You were more than ten. I think. I'm being pretty honest, I am. I actually think that, and you can t and listeners can decide whether
growth is, I think, I'm gonna compulsively honest person, you say you're compulsively honest. The title of your book is everybody. I so plainly, your drawing yourself as an outline by could have echoed aside like ninety eight percent of people live without one method and a fellow bugger. Do you think you're compulsive honesty pays off, or do you feel that compulsive honesty really makes your life? difficult and that lying is actually a pretty overall obvious. It is a million variations and shadings, but the line overall is is a pretty sensible strategy for life. I think it is that's what I've learned that I've just started like change my dating profile, I had like a really kind of just okay picture or maybe even a mediocre picture. Cuz I didn't want to be misleading and I was getting like no dates and I'm like wait. This is stupid. Changed to like
They really good picture and, unlike all that's what everybody does, that makes a lot of sense. So we are still you in the picture. Tell me, but it's lying by you note by emphasis, wrote I thought, and what's the progress been on the dating front? Much better with a better future. So when we are putting out information about ourselves, we may lie, but when we want to find information via Google, let's say
there's no incentive to lie that wouldn't get. Should the results we want. So we open up. We till Google, our secrets. There are lots of bizarre questions, not just questions but statements that people make on Google Signal, I'm sad or I'm drunk, or I love my girlfriends boobs like. Why are you telling Google that I think it feels like kind of a confessional window where people just type statements, with no reason that Google would be able to help you re in the book? The microscope showed us there's more to a drop of pond water than we think we see the telescope showed us there's more to the night sky than we think. We see a new digital data now show us there's more to human society than we think we see. So I
love that thought. I'm not sure I believe it in that. I'm not sure the ramifications will be so large because you know the societal insights you're talking about are often just a refinement or even a confirmation of what we ve already learned through centuries of philosophy in psychology in other fields, in So tell me why you're so convinced that this resolution will be as as big as the others lie. I dont think that we're just learning things I already know I think were learning, the things that we had no idea about the ways in which our intuition was way off about people? So if you talk about like what makes people anxious, that's like a huge question right, like ends I did have a couple studies I said, does anxiety rise after terrorist attacks and you'd see Google searches for anxiety and places after terrorist attack. They don't seem to rise, and you
day, like does anxiety rise when Donald Trump is elected. Everyone saying they're all anxious others rising anxiety. You there's that's like pretty much changes. How we think about society like that's, pretty revolutionary, our relative to the data we ve had on human beings before, and I think there are lots of things about people that we just had no idea about what my favorite examples of this is just the SAR put the top search. That starts my husband wants in is my husband wants me to breastfeed half and that nobody knows about. Unlike wearily after I wrote, I published that finding and like they start Interview people in India about this finding and nobody knew about it like doctors are like we ve, never heard of this, but like the fact exist, like their regional number of men in India
end like much higher than in any other country that have this desire? But they don't tell anybody because it secrets of those things exist. There are basically facts about human nature that we didn't know because he won't talk about them. Some of the facts about human nature are unsettling to say the least. Stevens to video spent a lot of time looking for racial hatred as evidence By the use of the inward in a time period I was studying, was about his frequent. His searches like migraine, an economist, Lakers and Daily show so wasn't a fringe search by any stretch of the imagination. I think it is at seven million total searches he found it? Searches like this would rise and fall Underwater the New Orleans tonight after the giant storm came the rising water. They rose a lot during Hurricane Katrina. There are all these
actions on the media of african Americans in a real struggle army. National Guard helicopter today rescued people from rooftops fragile islands. In the floodwaters it was enclosed. Disturbingly people were making and usually large number of searches mocking African Americans during that period, also. They rise allied every year, Martin Luther King Jr Day. I would also disturbing free at last free at last. I thought I might add real back. There was a big increase in sir When Obama was elected now is the weak, with among the highest searches in the history of Google, search for racist material If there is anyone who still doubts that America is a place where all things are
possible on the night, Obama was elected in two thousand eight Stevens video, its found, that of all the Google searches that included the word Obama. One per cent of them also included either the inward or K K K which may not sound like a huge amount of, but one in a hundred when you think of all the reasons to Google Obama. That night I mean he's the first black president. You can go about his thick speech or his family or his history are lots of other things, bout him, I was pretty shocked by how frequently people found the negative reason to make that search. God bless me about a states, so that's when these racist searches were happening about where that was also surprising. If you had asked me away,
Are racist searches highest in United States or where's racism in general highs the United States? I would have said that its southern issue right, like when you think of the history, the United States, slavery, Mississippi Louisiana Alabama. Those states are deftly among the highest, but other areas that are right near the top or even at the top of the number one state as West Virginia and then Pennsylvania, critically, Western Pennsylvania, Easter, Ohio parts of Michigan, very, very high industrial Michigan and Upstate New York, is really not a big differences in north versus South EAST verses West, our drop substantially once you get western, the Mississippi River, these racist searches, somebody ass, he d just talk a little bit in more detail about. The map of racism and how it related to the last several presidential elections yeah. Well, then, I
reading this paper by some economists at Berkeley, they were using general social survey, data to measure racism, and then they had asked the question whether racism played a factor in Obama's vote total on two thousand aid. Even if he one did you lose votes because of racism and concluded using this general social survey data that it was not a factor that Rachel attitudes we're not a big predictor. Again learning what we ve learned from talking to you today, we have to say, will wait a minute. Anything like that, based on survey data is suspected was at your first thought is well yeah. Maybe that's us back like what the Google searches show anything different, so you can't really just compare how may vote Obama God in places where racism is high and racism when this low, because those areas may have opposed any.
My credit candidate Right Boeing and doing a pair how little bomber, due to the previous democratic candidate John Kerry, who was white and had similar views on how did he compared to other democratic candidates, and when you do that, you see very re clearly like a really really strong relationship that places that make laws to praise searches, Obama got substantially fewer votes than other democratic cat, democratic haddest in so you're telling us in retrospect. Did Obama was in some ways in even stronger candidate than he was re willing to elections, despite substantial bias against black candidate, I gotta they lost out for percentage points from racism. We also got about one to two percent points from increased african American turn out, but yeah I'd balance yeah. I thought you liked the most charismatic president in history and
where's. My accounts allowed in politics. So what does it say generally about over or public versus cover or private racism? Well, I saw over the past ten or fifteen or twenty years in the social sites. Is they re trying to answer big paradox, which is that African Americans have very very bad life outcomes, but white people say there not racist right, and the traditional answer. This is implicit bias. So, like you, I everybody listening. All of us have some subconscious associations between some negative outcomes and black people, and this has been used to explain why African Americans are struggling, and I think one of the things that this research shows is probably that explicit racism may be playing a bigger role, not this implicit subconscious, stereo type.
That has dominated the research in the last twenty years or so. What did your map of racism predict or tell you about the election of Donald Trump? well. I didn't actually do this, but I make corner a kind of stats gotten your times. He got data, not trumped support in the in the republican primary, and he asked me for the explicit racism data and he said there was the biggest up there. He could find of Trump supporting the primary. Was this Google racism data stronger than edges? She and her age or lots of other things. And what can that tell you were? What can you tell us about Hillary Clinton? I mean if, if Obama carried the day twice with the anti black bias, can you tell us anything about whether the anti female by against. Hillary Clinton may have been enough to change the outcome, not as they are. I think I get up
email once a week asked me to look into it, I think it's eleven harder with african Americans there's pay much one word that is search more than every other, potentially racist word. I can Think of one word that Hilary has been called a lot. There would probably get a fairly far no while the issue with sexes, is that a lot of the negative words are also porn. Searches coming up on for radio is South Stevens to bid which his work being acted upon by people in high places. I think possibly, Sangfroid Obama staff read it because, a few weeks later he gave another speech ETA, Baltimore MOSS, and how often do you have sex several times per week? we once or twice a week average it. I think that they'll be exaggerating how often they're having sex it's coming up right after this break
it was while getting his beauty and economics that sets deepens the video it started. Using Google search data to try to better understand the world, so seem natural to use those data for his dissertation What did his thesis advisers think this idea they all liked it, but they're like you, might not get an academic. You have did you care about an academic, John I want. I thought I wanted to be a professor so idea I did terrible hit heading, get one talk about the difficulty of getting the dissertation published, so I was considered kind of weird to use Google search kind of got some angry responses from journals and act, the academic markets, I don't think so- we are, but I've always tell me it was weird wishes. Guy, like my life, I'm always weird in it and don't think I'm we're part
this dissertation eventually was published as a paper in the Journal of public economics. It was called the cost of racial animus on a black presidential candidate evidence using Google Search data. It didn't get him a job in academia, but did help get him a job at Google, how very in the chief economist there he like where he is kind of like also, I think weird and doesn't realized, is fear from Heaven and you he was upset Google Data like long before I was in kind started this all things. Are we really bonded at them what did you do there and how long were you there as therefore about a year and a half it's gonna like in house, consulting, maybe like Google, doesn't really outsource their consulting till I Mckinsey or the kind of like having a team inside who, under their data and can help help them make decisions. What And if Google Data were you interpreting and then telling Google about a lot of like advertising stuff air, your tone of voice implies lack of thrill. Is that the case?
That's I quit. Would you ve been able to write the book that you ve written? Were you still working at Google? I think I probably could have But I may maybe would have had to have better social skills to deal with the pr departments. I think my social skills who have improved. In the last two years, but they weren't great one tat was not in my skill set in my twenty is better give me an example? What you mean remember, I just like be very aggressive. Unlike thought I knew all the answers and stuff, and how would you know there are four so you're you done with that phase of your life. I hold so dear to talk for a minute about. I guess your level of confidence or me, no, your argument for the strength of the evidence in that a search, Google search is, I would call it sort of a proxy for some behaviour or question or activities or what not. So it's not the fact itself.
Not the data itself, but it's a query represent what seeming to represent the the fact itself. So can you talk for a minute about I substantial you feel the relationship is between the search and the thing What gives you that confidence there ve been a lot of examples? Where are, we'll have correlated searches with real world behaviors. So there's one study that compares searches for suicide and these correlate highly with actual suicides him. The Google search for suicide correlate much higher than surveys for suicide. I've done research on you can predict how many people turn out to vote based on whether people search where to vote or how to vote before an election. These correlate higher and much higher than surveys with how many people actually turn out to vote. These crazy searches, kill Moslems, like he's, really is a nasty search it about Muslims.
I've showed with of insult us that at Princeton that these correlate with hate crimes against Muslims. So I think the fact that over and over again they correlative, usually Coralie much stronger than other data sets is proof that even some of the stranger searches have real information in them. Real information that may, in some cases, be useful. So if you're talking about people who search kill Muslims are I hate Muslims? It's not your average American. This is someone with extreme animosity and rage and violent thoughts, so this kind of of unique sample of people, even if its small, would be basically impossible to capture and a survey or to find in a university laboratory experiment, but because Google searches have everybody We also have this a small, tiny mob, and we can study really for may be the first time what actual
inflamed and angry mob and what actually comes down and angry mob, as we heard earlier, time. Muslim searches rose when President Obama was trying to things down after the San Bernardino attack. I still does not speak for Islam there bugs and killers, but in the last few minutes of that speech, the President change tack. Obama talked about how muslim americans- are american heroes. Muslim Americans are our friends and neighbours are co, workers are sports heroes and yes, there are men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defence of our country, a nation of Google Earth. Also change tack. You saw for the first time in many years the top descriptor of Muslims Google was not muslim terrorists or muslim refugees, it was muslim athletes and muslim soldiers. They both skyrocketed stayed up about.
A week afterwards, he was collaborating on this project with ever insult us. So what Evan I concluded was maybe lecturing people is not the best way to change, reminder to calm them down if their enraged, but suddenly provoking their curious. He offered new description of a group that is causing them. So much axed is maybe more effective and then it will. We wrote this up in your times, got some attention and I think of possibly Sangfroid bombers staff. Read it because, a few weeks later, he gave another speech at a Baltimore MOSS raised reset it, and he really stop with all the lectures and the sermon and instead focus much more.
On the curiosity provoking, so he talked about how not just muslim athletes in muslim soldiers, but he talked to a muslim firefighters and muslim teachers and how Thomas Jefferson, on a copy of the Quran and Muslim Americans built the skyscrapers in Chicago generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation. They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants. So you kind of double down or quadruple down on this curiosity strategy, and it does seem like right after these words were spoken: the angry searches about Muslim Americans actually went down, so there is a drop in searches for kill Muslims, and I hate Muslims after Obama gave this speech Stevens Divided, which his book is stuffed with examples of the behaviors that, according to him, everybody lies about, especially on traditional surveys, so we recruit
some for economics, radio listeners promised them anonymity and asked them some typical survey questions and we asked Stevens divided wits to predict what they would say. So if we asked people how free Lee. They have sex. What do you think they would say having metals about one and a half times a week and will mill say about once a week oh man varies from week to week, maybe once or twice a week I would say, maybe three or four times a month several times per week. And then how does that compare to the reality is best. We know, I think that both be exaggerating oftener having sex, How do you know that their exaggerating? I did this comparison. The general Sosius survey asked club men and women I how frequently have sex and what They use a condom and if you do, math on that, then american men said the use one point: six billion
condoms in heterosexual sexual encounters american woman, used one point: one billion condoms in heterosexual sexual encounters and obviously those by definition have to the same rights like you know already that someone's lying. But then I got data from Neil, then how many condoms are sold every year, the United States, and only six hundred million condoms are sold every year. Then that doesn't mean that there are lying about how much sector having their might just be, adding more on verdict its export. If you actually look at like the best math on how frequently people get pregnant, if people are having as much unprotected sex as they say there having there be more it sees every year in the United States right, although then you have to factor in terminations as well, cracked, the even including how many abortions are so in other its bottom line. Is people lie a law to a significant degree like what would you put the rate of exaggeration out for sex generally sex frequency like three two one for man and two to one for women wow? If we asked people if they watch pornography? What they say and how accurate will that be? I thought that area
I would say yes, because I thought that in this day and age at least the males would be ok, saying that they watch pornography. Now now now, yes cuz everybody just saying no on occasion. Everybody has urges that need to be fulfilled. I had milk low. You guys would ask me that two stone, I never have women make up twenty percent of pornography. Viewed now this place on my deception there. So we have to be people, if they think Superbowl, adds make a more likely to buy the products being advertised. What do you think they'll say and what's reality? I think, though price I know, because people don't like to think that their influence by adds no no, no, no, I think they increase the warehouse, but I don't find many of the Superbowl adds relevant to me when I'm looking to buy a product, I dont at least punch
Please think that I get my information for it from commercials. The ring While he is definitely yes, the way people have studied. This is comparing product purchases in cities of teams that made it versus cities that just missed the Superbowl see you get a big shocked shock to ship and those cities and applying those advertise products. Much more, so it's there clearly very effective. It says. I think you make a very persuasive argument that Google Search data is, you know, a great tool to figure out who we are and what we care about and and so on, especially when it's not going to be revealed in a more traditional way, but obviously Google Search data hardly reveals everything. So I'd like you to to just tell us one thing: provocative or embarrassing, or surprising about you that we will never ever be able to learn from a Google search
How does it feel now? One thing that there are Serious- I am really never learn from Google search. You have to get back to a summer. You wanna get back to us by email. We can note that the really eighteen seconds of incredibly awkward silence, followed by an email we gather that's a week later today sets Stevens video. Its did send an email subject, line embarrassing thing. I have never googled the email red quote. I am embarrassed and insecure about how I sleep
I've been told I twitch in jerk like a maniac for some reason: I've never Google, this particular issue, but it is possible. Someone who is shared a bed with me has in case you are curious. The top three googled complaints about male partners are that he talks twitches an jerks in his sleep. The top three googled complaints about female partners are that she talks forts and masturbates in her sleek and quote that's our over today, thanks for listening again Seth Stevens Divinities Book is called. Everybody lies next time on for economics, radio hi. This is Burma I am retired sea of Microsoft, Steve Bombers, new project, it's a sort of fiscal colonoscopy on the american government. If I'm a citizen, I don't want to know just where the government got
money from whom and where its Bennett, but is it working at all, or at least what activities at generating he's. Also a little bit excited about owning a professional basketball team. Burs personal burst its next time on economics. Radio economics radio is produced by W and my c studios and governor productions. This episode was produced by Christopher Worth. Our staff also includes Shelly Louis Merit, Jacob Great Results, Ky Stephanie, Tam, Eliza Amber Alison Hockenberry. Emma Morgenstern Harry hugging an Brian Gutierrez Terror, yet engineering help this week from met fiddler and require
also to our anonymous survey panel. You know, are you can subscribe to frequent Amis, radio and apple podcast stitched or wherever you get your pockets? You should also check out not archive friggin onyx dot com. We can stream or download every episode with ever made can also read the transcripts look up the underlying research finally convened on Twitter, Facebook or even vs IE mail at radio at freakin I'm extent com.
Transcript generated on 2021-01-23.