I suppose you can't blame Sam Gosling for trying to catch a wave, even if it took him a while to catch it: his variety of psychology - drawing deep psychological conclusions from superficial evidence in the shape of personal detritus in bedrooms and offices and the outward shape of public internet spaces like facebook pages, blogs, websites and the like - was given prominent billing in pop-psych guru Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink
as an example of "thin slicing" we do everyday to get by in the world. Gladwell's made a mint; Gosling must have thought he might be able to too.
But just as Gladwell's book - a difficult second album after The Tipping Point
- was itself superficial and largely directionless set of anecdotes, Gosling's first effort while promising much, delivers little more than a cursory trot through the "big five" personality traits (which won't be news if you've read Blink), an overarching framework of how these might be signified by "behavioural residue" (being evidence of how you behave left behind when you've stopped behaving and left the room) , "feeling regulators" (photos of your kids, the current Arsenal striker, symbols of your chosen deity and so on positioned around your space to cheer you up) and "identity claimers" (the selfsame items to the extent they are presented to make a statement about you to the rest of the world).
And that's about it. The remainder consists, yet again, of loosely organised anecdotage to bind the one to the other, occasionally leavened with unimpressive statsitics gleaned from half-hearted experiments that Gosling and his underlings have performed. Some of the underwhelming observations you won't find on the dust jacket, then:
* there is very little in an office or bedroom environment which would tell you anything about a person's extraversion, agreeableness or neuroticism (being three of the "big five" traits). The two which you can deduce conclusions are conscientiousness (how tidy you are) and openness (how many African Masks on your walls or albums of World Music in your CD rack). Golly.
* Music tastes are basically useless for gauging personalities for most forms of popular music.
* If you find evidence which appears to contradict your theory about the subject's personality, it is best to ignore it and only look at the evidence which does fit your theory.
Indeed, that's pretty much the problem: Gosling's method purports to be scientific, in the sense of reliably telling you something about a room's inhabitant, but is so liberally sprayed with caveats (those dirty socks might belong to someone else!) as to be little more than an appeal to the sort of intuitions one doesn't need a psychology professor to tell one how to exercise. They're --- well, intuitive.
Indeed, that was Malcolm Gladwell's point: we make these sort of snap judgments automatically and subconsciously, which makes the young Professor Gosling's field guide all the more dispensable.