Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Google Drop-Down Menus Tell You All You Need To Know


A post on Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational draws our attention to Google as a source of data for all sorts of research into human emotions. Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, believes that by using drop down suggestions in Google, we can gain insights into “what people might care the most about concerning a given topic. When people search a particular political leader, what are their main concerns? What are people secretly guilty about? For better or for worse, Google’s obsession with collecting and refining data has given us a window into each other’s fascinating and telling curiosities.”

But we think that this argument can go some additional distance. When it comes to medicine, this kind of data insight could be used to formulate and implement well designed public policy initiatives. If properly searched and defined, the data could be stratified according to sex, social class, age, etc. Using Dr. Ariely’s example, shown above, we gain a look at sexuality issues of young people. But the same technique, for example, can help us take a look at how the elderly understand diabetes.

The other side of the same coin, as we have argued before, is Google’s responsibility to deliver accurate and responsible medical search results. Even though some might argue that what is delivered in search results is not Google’s responsibility per se, as these reflect the conversations on the internet, nevertheless we do think what Google suggests in the drop down menu is indeed Google’s responsibility. According to a discovery by PZ Myers, Google has a mechanism to control the drop down suggestions.

We hope that with Google’s help in balancing the forces of responsibility and transparency that we can harness the implicit data that exists when millions of people are trying to learn more about their health.

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »