Why Google is the (hilariously) perfect social experiment

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Part 1 in a series. Click here for Part 2: How Google let’s you see into people’s minds

We all have embarrassing questions. You know, the ones you secretly want to ask but wouldn’t be caught dead with your name on them. Fortunately, the internet gives us the anonymity to seek answers without the embarrassment of the real world. In fact, these nameless forums provide the perfect social experiment. What do people want to know? What are they afraid of? Google’s search suggestions offer some fascinating results. Here are five of the most amusing and revealing patterns.

5. Black people are confusing

Despite almost every fact and years of societal progress, black people apparently remain mysterious. Many internet searchers wonder how black people’s bodies function or whether they exist at all. Assuming that most of these results are from non-black users, it seems we are curious about people who look different.

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How science debunks “nice guys finish last”

It’s a familiar story. You’ve finally worked up the courage to approach the guy or girl you like. You take a deep breath and prepare to conquer your anxieties. Then, as you step forward, you see it: someone has beaten you to the punch. Even worse, this person is a jerk—he or she treats others without a shred of respect. This is a just another example of nice guys finish last, that sad inescapable truth. Except science says this is bogus.

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Contrary to popular belief, science shows nice people finish first.

According to research out of Harvard University, cooperative people are far more likely to achieve success than their unpleasant counterparts. In the study then post-doctoral fellow David Rand (now Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University) had subjects participate in an online game in which players were given a random group of friends. Players could pay to help one another or act selfishly and keep resources to themselves. After each round subjects updated their friend groups, creating new connections and cutting ties. The results? Generous players ended the game with large networks of cooperative teammates, while selfish players found themselves ostracized from the crowd. In other words, the mean guys finished last. Continue reading

Are we all just faces in a crowd?

This has been on my mind for quite some time. In fact, I’ve been meaning to post about it for a while now. I cannot understand how anyone could like me.

Allow me to explain. I am not talking about any sort of depression (don’t worry, Mom!). What I am describing is quite different. Though on one level it makes perfect sense, I find it odd that other people can feel toward me as they do toward any other human being.

If you think really hard about what it feels like to exist, you will probably say that you feel like some sort of thing peering out from a body. While you encounter dozens, possibly hundreds of human beings every day, your understanding of them is fundamentally different from your understanding of yourself. Your friends, family, and acquaintances all behave in similar ways to you, but they cannot feel what you feel. Though you can understand and relate to one another, they will never know what it is like to be you.

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