Search and Predicting Behavior

August 3, 2020

DarkCyber is interested in predictive analytics. Bayesian and other “statistical methods” are a go-to technique, and they find their way into many of the smart software systems. Developers rarely explain that systems share many features and functions. Marketers, usually kept in the dark like mushrooms, are free to formulate an interesting assertion or two.

I read “Google Searches During Pandemic Hint at Future Increase in Suicide,” and I was not sure about the methodology. Nevertheless, the write up provides some insight into what can be wiggled from Google search data.

Specifically Columbia University experts have concluded that financial distress is “strongly linked to suicide.”


I learned:

The researchers used an algorithm to analyze Google trends data from March 3, 2019, to April 18, 2020, and identify proportional changes over time in searches for 18 terms related to suicide and known suicide risk factors.

What algorithm?

The method is described this way:

The proportion of queries related to depression was slightly higher than the pre-pandemic period, and moderately higher for panic attack.

Perhaps the researchers looked at the number of searches and noted the increase? So comparing raw numbers? Tenure tracks and grants await! Because that leap between search and future behavior…

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2020


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