Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling
I defy any browsing bibliomane not to pick this book up on seeing the arrangements of books and comfy armchair through the keyhole on its cover!
I’m sure that you, like me, sniff out the bookcases as soon as you go in someone’s house. If they do have lots of books, I believe you can get a feel for their owner(s), and even the most dedicated library user will have some evidence of their bookish loves.
Snoop is, of course, about much more than bookshelves. Gosling is an English-born Professor of Psychology in Texas, and his speciality is a kind of benign psychological profiling by looking at peoples’ possessions. In particular, he researches into correlations between the big five personality traits: Conscientiousness, Openness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and the stuff we own and how we treat and display it.
Initially, he recruited and trained a team of ‘snoopers’ and set them to work on volunteer students’ rooms. He ended up later on national television comparing the rooms of TV news anchormen. In between, there is loads of psychological discussion of the subject and case studies (all American).
Gosling is an entertaining teacher – his writing is straight-forward and free from jargon. It’s also witty, and being a Brit, he is self-deprecating – we gradually get a picture of him too from his descriptions of his own stuff, (no TV – Shock!).
I was entertained, but was I transformed into a super-snooper? For a man who has spent his professional career trying to read peoples’ posessions, Gosling has largely proved how inexact it all really is!
- You can only really deduce information about conscientiousness (how tidy you are) and openness (generally evidenced by a wide range of books, music, etc). You can tell tidy from tidied.
- Stereotypes are useful initially, but be prepared to dump them – there are too many exceptions to the rule.
- Popular musical tastes are largely irrelevant.
- How can you tell whether the ‘you’ shown through the things you display is the real one?
- You can be wrong-tracked as a snooper by stuff not belonging to the snoopee, just left behind or being looked after.
- As a snooper, you need to be familiar with the cultural mores and brand awareness of the snoopee to get the most information out of it. There’s no point in looking at someone’s music and film collections or make-up bag if you haven’t heard of the artists or brands.
I quite like pop science books, so I enjoyed dipping into this one, even if I didn’t learn much. It certainly won’t stop me from snooping at other people’s bookcases, which I find usually give a clear indication of intellectual pursuits! (6.5/10)
Do you enjoy snooping around other peoples’ bookcases? Bet you do!
Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling, pub 2009 by Profile Books, 288 pages.