How to Be a Successful Snoop

Magnets.

That’s what the whole thing started with a couple months ago.  Somewhere I heard that the key to understanding your personality was how many magnets you had on your fridge.  Ha, I laughed. Yeah, right.

But that thought, of course, got me curious.  Everyday, by our behaviors, our presentation of self, our conversations we reveal little by little our character and our personality.  Although we have control over the actual words we say, the underlying meanings sometimes completely elude us.  And not only do our conversations and behaviors say something about who we are, so does our stuff.  What do we value, what do we keep, what do we throw away?  And beyond that, how is it organized?  What does your stuff say about you?

Sam Gosling isn’t the first person to ask this, but his book Snoop, does attempt to present a concise picture of how our belongings talk about us behind our back – and it’s not always pretty.   His book is a sleuthing manual dedicated to how to pick up the clues – and put them together – on what people’s stuff reveals.  Even including magnets.

Throughout the book there are numerous case studies and clever anecdotes – but to understand the basis of his research you have to have a working knowledge of the Five Factor Model.  The Big Five is Psychology’s favored explanation for how personality manifests itself.  Every person has five components of their personality that range from high to low – together they explain, predict, and underscore different ways a person may think or behave.  These five traits are – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  As you can probably surmise – being higher on the first four is good, not so much on that last one.  Beneath each of these factors is another set of traits that correllate with the factor.  For example, says Gosling, under Extraversion is: friendliness, gregariousness, assertiveness, cheerfulness.  If you measure high on Extraversion, likely you identify with these things – but if you rate low on it, you would likely avoid situations that call for those traits.

So, how we tell from people’s things whether they are high or low on Extraversion, or high or low on Conscientiousness… etc?  Therein lies the rest of Gosling’s book.

But first – a brief tour of my kitchen/dining room/office/study –

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What kinds of judgements can you make about me based on my stuff?  Here’s where the nuts and bolts of Snoopology comes in.  Throughout the book Gosling gives tips for how to interpret what you see when you walk into a room, and how to avoid common pitfalls of snap judgements.

Let’s take a minute to examine Conscientiousness, as portrayed by the above set of pictures.  How conscientious am I?

Look at that first picture – it’s my spice drawer – super organized right?  But then you see my countertop – an utter disaster.  Refrigerator – somewhere in the middle.  Finally my Craft boxes – sure, they’re neatly placed on a shelf, which suggests some level of organization – but they you open them and realize it’s all just a jumble of fabric.

How much of this conscientiousness (or lack thereof) is due to me?  and how much of it is due to my son – who also spends a lot of his day in this room, eating, making messes, and playing trucks.

One of the key tricks to snooping I learned in this book is to look at the whole picture of what people’s things say about them – sure, they may have a lot of books, but are any of them read (based on folded pages, bookmarks, or notes.)  Your friends says she watches a lot of documentaries – but if whats sitting in her DVD player is a RomCom every time you come over, is she just trying to seem more erudite?  All the displayed pictures are perfectly posed – but the wallet is full of candids.

Of course, there were also plenty of little guidelines I picked up too – Got a friend with maps and art posters on the wall?  Probably a liberal.  Someone with modern furniture?  Probably an extrovert.  And whatever you do – be aware that everyone is looking in your medicine cabinet.

Want to find out more about what your living space says about you?  And how you can manipulate it to give off a better impression (maybe)?  You should check out Snoop.
Happy Snooping!

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One response to “How to Be a Successful Snoop

  1. Pingback: The types of books I think about writing | All Growing Up·

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