Sam Gosling

A decade of research by this University of Texas at Austin psychology prof has led to new ways of understanding the relationship between individuals and the spaces they inhabit, as he now reveals with Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.

Snoop posits that our possessions open a window onto our inner selves. Didn’t we already know that?

Yes, but we didn’t know what you can learn. My research team went into bedrooms or offices and recorded their impressions in standard personality tests. We then compared what they thought about the occupants with what the occupants thought about themselves and what their friends thought about them.

And how did your team’s analyses match up?

It depends on where you look. Bedrooms reflect traits like openness to experiences, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Offices reveal information about openness—and to a lesser extent conscientiousness—and extraversion. Facebook profiles are most revealing of extraversion and openness. In short, different contexts reveal different traits.

What kind of feedback have you received?

In a field where so much of the research involves relating one personality questionnaire to another, some of my colleagues find it quite refreshing to see someone collect real data from the real world! Basic Books, $25 (Read the full interview .)

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