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Quantifying the Advantage of Looking Forward

April 2012

Tobias Preis, Helen Susannah Moat, H. Eugene Stanley, Steven R. Bishop


The authors used google search logs to compare across country results for google searches. By using the roman numerals for years, which are ubiquitous across countries, the authors, for the first time, were able to use google trend data to compare data across countries, as opposed to comparison of terms in particular regions. The authors then used statistical methods to compare the rate at which countries searched for past dates, and future dates, and the correlation with GDP for that particular country. The authors found a statistically significant result that showed a strong correlation between searching for future years and growth within a country’s GDP, i.e. countries that search for future years have a stronger growth in GDP when compared to countries that search for previous years.

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Policy Implications

The authors posit that this study is a sign that “Our results are consistent with the intriguing possibility that there is a relationship between the economic success of a country and the information seeking behaviour of its citizens online”. This particular point is extremely relevant for policy makers. First, it shows the strength that the information provided in google trends can provide, and second, it shows that policymakers should take into account online behavior of their constituents when making policy choices.

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