When it comes to seeking information, do you search for answers in the past or do you look toward the future? A post this week on NPR.com reported on how a simple Google search can determine how individuals orient themselves in time. According to research published last year in Nature, scientists can compile data and determine whether or not the citizens of a country are collectively looking back or looking forward using information collected from Google and the CIA World Factbook.
The result of the research was complied into a graphic titled the “Future Orientation Index,” which ranks which nations are more forward-thinking than others. The United Kingdom headed the 2011 chart, which researchers tied into the fact that the nation was looking forward to several big events such as Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Summer Olympics. Germany topped the 2012 list, which is thought to be the result of a focus on the 2013 elections.
Stanford University professor Philip Zimbardo has long considered how people think about themselves within the context of time. In the following animated lecture from the RSA, Zimbardo talks about the effects that past- and future-orientations can have on a person’s psyche, and how those thoughts can effect a nation’s consciousness.