The Architecture of Life: Book Review - Snoop by Sam Gosling

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Review - Snoop by Sam Gosling

(This Book Review reprinted from the Summer 2008 Round Top Register)

Here’s what the Austin American Statesman had to say about Sam Gosling.

(Seen on right at BookPeople event in Austin.)

“Sam Gosling is something of a rock star in the world of academia — winner of the American Psychological Association's 2008 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award...cited in Malcolm Gladwell's international bestseller "Blink," profiled in a New York Times Magazine cover story.”

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You - Gosling’s first book for the general public - is a guilty pleasure.

Its author accomplishes something rare in a popular book written by a research scientist. Snoop is readable, funny and informative - but doesn’t sell out the science.

The book highlights the latest findings in personality research, including many studies done by Gosling and his collaborators - but makes learning about your stuff, your self and others, fun.

Snoop also has local relevance to my part of Texas. Gosling visited my “tiny town” home of Round Top while writing this book. It's last chapter talks about the people from this area he interviewed while doing his research.

Snoop trains the reader to become a master Snoopologist.

Snoopology is the science of snooping through other people’s living and work spaces in order to make predictions about their personality and character.

Does a messy desk mean you have a messy mind?

Can women tell you are “only after one thing” by the posters on your wall?

Does that picture of Martin Luther King on your desk mean you are someone with a highly developed social conscience or just that you want to be seen that way?

Gosling admits snooping is a “special brand of voyeurism,” and clearly enjoys the practice himself. But under Snoop’s clever marketing hook lies a powerful understanding of our relationships with the objects and environments around us.

After reading the book, you begin to see this in yourself and others. You begin to realize how automatic our assumptions and reactive decisions are and how profoundly they impact our lives.
Looked at through the lens of science, you begin to see that we make incorrect judgments about others quite frequently. You also see that all of us are snooping - whether we are aware of it or not - almost all the time.

Snoop teaches the reader how a brilliant and careful research scientist uses snoopology to enhance his analysis of himself and others. The book also includes a few personality tests - one of which told me more than I wanted to know.

I discovered when taking the BIG FIVE test that I score quite high in both openness and neuroticism.

My readers may not find that particularly surprising given I have a reputation for having a big mouth and being nutty as a fruitcake.

I found it particularly distasteful since it is accurate.

But don’t worry, we all have great skills of self deception to fall back on if the truth becomes too much to handle. If Snoop hits too close to home, you can simply blow it off like you would a personality test in a women’s magazine.

But Gosling’s Snoopology training has a cumulative impact on a more attentive apprentice. The more you read, the more you understand how many of your daily decisions are made unconsciously.

You begin to see the serious consequences of being unaware of those facts. After all, we all make snap judgments about people based on how they look and where they live. We also make decisions about our homes the same way.

Gosling points out those stereotypes - though sometimes politically incorrect - are actually an important tool your brain uses to process information.

“If you didn’t use stereotypes,” he explains “you would be overwhelmed, because every item, person, and experience would have to be treated as a totally new experience, not part of a broader class.”

But Gosling makes this point in a way that incites a laugh.

“When you go to a new part of town, what makes you think the sidewalk slab in front of your foot is going to hold up when you put your foot on it? You have never put your foot there before. How do you know it’s not going to cave in or catch fire or swim away?

“Or why should you believe the sandwich you are about to eat is edible? You’ve never eaten that particular sandwich before.

“Face the fact that, by making generalizations to guide your interactions, you are using evil stereotypes about sidewalks and sandwiches, not considering them as individual unique entities in their own right.”

Snoop is a great read! It’s fun, informative and often quite surprising. I highly recommend it.

Of course - to be honest - I would. Snoop’s last chapter is about my Truehome project.

My personality - as my readers know - pushes me towards shameless self promotion.


Anonymous said...

Having fun reading of your blog.


Kare Anderson said...

Sam mentioned you and your great application of his ideas at least thee times when we heard him speak at Commonwealth Club of California here in S.F. made us all eager to see your homes

Congrats on your mutual admiration society


Chris Travis said...

Thanks Berto, glad to have you around.


You are right that I admire Sam's work. It is much deeper than many people realize, really ground breaking stuff.

Snoop is aimed at a popular audience, but Sam is really a hard-core research scientist with a background in studying animal behavior and personality. Some of the studies he has produced are incredibly creative, and that is why he is getting so much attention.

Thanks for dropping by the Architecture of Life Blog. If you want you can see some of the work the Truehome Workshop produced by clinking the link to my architecture firm in the left column. Then clicking portfolio.

The area we practice - rural Texas - influences the styles our clients are drawn to...but you will see we do not have a "look" like most successful architecture firms.

That is because we get inside our client's heads and develop design criteria that fits their sensibilities, not just our own.

John Altobello said...

Chris, I couldn't agree with you more about getting to know who your client is, and then using this awareness to inform the architectural design. As an architectural designer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I'm making some inroads with this methodology. Schools of architecture are beginning to pay attention. Regards, John Altobello

tires 12r 22.5 said...
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