New: Book Report: Snoop

Yesterday, my office-mate told a story about the struggle with stuff. Her house had a lot of clutter. She was sick of it. So she cleared stuff up. She got stuff organized. She gave stuff away. She discarded stuff. There was that moment of triumph when she realized she could see the floor. A while later, she went up to her son's room. There were boxes in there, boxes full of stuff. Apparently, her task was more Sisyphean than she had realized.

Where had all of these boxes come from? Her ex-husband had heard that she'd cleared some space in her house--so he'd sent over some stuff from his house to store. I immediately thought about my teeny-tiny apartment, which is bursting at the seams with stuff. People look at me funny when I say I don't have room for a TV in my apartment, like I'm saying something philisophical about TV or judgemental about mass media or... whatever. These people have not seen my apartment. People who have seen my apartment just nod in agreement. I have too much stuff for my apartment. So when I heard my office-mate's story, I thought it would be great to have an ex-wife. I could box up all of my useless crap and send it to her. That would be awesome. (Though, on later reflection, I figured out that the process of acquiring an ex-wife is even more painful than dealing with a storage company, so never mind that idea.)

Anyhow, people have a bunch of physical possessions. Physical possessions are a hassle, so probably we can learn something about ourselves by looking at which physical possessions we think are worth hanging onto. That's the basis of Snoop. It's about personality, what your stuff says about your personality, and your stuff doesn't say about your personality but people will draw conclusions so watch yourself. It's not just about physical possessions--it's also about how you carry yourself, how you interact with people.

This book is about figuring out someone's personality by looking at their stuff and outward appearance. What can you figure out about someone by browsing their bookshelf? By watching them walk? By looking at their Facebook page? (And what can you figure out by looking at their homepage (other than that they were narcissicistic enough to set up a home page in the first place)?) What can you find out by rooting through their trash?

You probably already have some good ideas what you can figure out--and some misconceptions. This book is about some psychologists who studied correlations between personalities and stuff.

They like the Big Five (a.k.a. "OCEAN") measure of personality--instead of clustering folks into types, it attempts to measure five aspects of personality. (I'm a O5-C74-E12-A32-N9 Big Five!!, at least according to one on-line personality quiz.)

Don't try to draw too many conclusions from one object; look for the big picture. If you see that someone has some organizational aid, don't assume that they're organized--check to see that they're using it correctly. Sometimes someone will set out one item that they hope will be noticed; that item might reflect their personality or it might not. Sometimes someone will have some item that catches your eye because it seems like a clue to their personality--but it's an outlier; maybe a gift, maybe something they picked up for someone else; maybe something that's just plain unusual for them.

When trying to judge someone's personality based upon their bearing, how they present themselves: You probably can't figure out Open-ness, though people try based on refined appearance, friendly expression, and calm speaking. If you want to know if someone is conscientious, see if they dress formally; don't look for plain dress, nor a controlled sitting posture, nor calm speech. You can figure out if someone's extraverted based on how they carry themselves. To know if someone's agreeable, see if they have a friendly expression, but don't rely on lots of smiling. You probably can't judge someone's neuroticism based on features you might think would work: grumpy expression, stiff gait, unpleasant voice; you can get a hint that they're neurotic if they wear dark clothes.

When trying to judge someone's personality based upon their living space. For open-ness, look for some unusual objects, look for a variety of reading material. To know if they're conscientious, look for organization, neatness, and comfort. (You might not have thought to look for comfort.) Don't try to figure out extraversion or agreeableness. When judging neuroticism, ignore stale air, but do look out for inspirational posters.

To guess someone's open-ness, look at their web presence, their office, the variety of their music tastes. To guess someone's conscientiousness, look at their website vs their Facebook profile--Facebook guides you away from a cluttered look; look at living space or how they carry themselves in a short meeting. For extraversion, check the Facebook profile or (duh) watch to see how they interact with people. For agreeableness--maybe you're not going to get a strong indicator. For neuroticism, look at living space, personal web site, or how they interact socially.

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Posted 2009-01-29