SnoopWhatYourStuffSaysAb53142_fSo, given my well-known tendency to examine other people’s bookcases whenever I get the opportunity, it was probably inevitable that I would buy Snoop as soon as I saw it; especially with the subtitle “What Your Stuff Says About You”.

Sam Gosling is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, and he specialises in studying the differences in personality and how we all form impressions of other people in our day to day lives. And one of the ways he studied this is by training students in snooping and setting them loose in the bedrooms of a sample of college students to see what they could work out about them. If that makes sense. I suppose bedrooms are apparently one of the best places to look because they tend to be private spaces where we let our guard down, so to speak. Work spaces are also a good hunting ground, but you need to be aware of any company policies on displaying personal stuff before you get too carried away.

This is an interesting read; there’s a particularly intriguing section on stereotypes and why they are not always a bad thing – we normally see them in a negative light but they can have some validity as long as we don’t rely on them too much. Though having been on the receiving end of one too many interpretations of what it is to be Scottish, I might reserve judgement.

The great pleasure for me in this book are the case studies that Gosling uses to illustrate his points, and how important it is to look at context before reaching conclusions and not be swayed by things that may be out of place. For example, one of his students wrongly identified a room as belonging to a woman based on a pair of high heels lying on the floor. This other things in the room to be interpreted in a particular way; in fact the shoes had been left behind by the occupant’s girlfriend.

The big message I took away from Snoop is that it’s almost impossible to fake a personality. There are lots of things that you can do to give a particular impression to someone else but the things that you don’t see in yourself will almost always give you away; all those things that we do unconsciously and therefore can’t adapt or amend. As someone who has difficulty throwing things away I was pleased to see a good explanation of the difference between a collector and a hoarder which I will save for the next time the Book God suggests I might want to clear out my study…..

Having said all that, I suspect that there isn’t much in here that anyone who has studied psychology a bit wouldn’t be aware of. I’m just not one of those people.

So I’m still going to check those bookcases; but I just might rummage in your medicine cabinet as well…..

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