“Everybody Lies” Book Summary: Unveiling the Hidden Truths of Human Behavior

In the age of search engines and digital footprints, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s “Everybody Lies” takes us on a wild ride into the world of big data to reveal the most honest, quirkiest truths about human behavior. This book summary aims to be your trusty guide, giving you the scoop on the coolest insights from this eye-opening read, all while having a bit of fun along the way. 😎🔍

This book is ahead of its time because it asserts a shocking idea that everybody lies when you try to survey people about the truth for various things. A study was done to see how often people lie when surveyed about their college grades or when they last donated or voted. The surveyors had access to the real data to check if they were lying. These studies done in Denver and the University of Maryland found that a good portion of people lied about these things to make them look better.

Because of the ideas in this book, it made me question almost everything I’ve been told anecdotally. When a woman gives dating advice or does one of those street YouTube videos, how often are they lying to appear nice on camera? Do they lie about the guys they actually like? And how much of other career, income, wealth, or health advice is influenced by more bias or because they’re being paid rather than what they would actually do?

The book details ways you can find the actual truth of how people actually behave and think behind closed doors, using big data, such as search engine trends.

Quick Book Summary

“Everybody Lies” invites us to journey through the fascinating universe of big data analysis. It’s a world where Google searches become like digital confessions, laying bare our deepest thoughts and desires, often way juicier than what we admit in public. Buckle up because we’re about to reveal how Google is the ultimate lie detector! 🕵️‍♂️🤫

Key Insights

The Power of Google Searches

Step aside, Sherlock! Stephens-Davidowitz shows us that Google searches are the real detective in town. People spill the beans here more than they would in a therapy session! By decoding these searches, researchers can uncover a treasure trove of insights into what makes us tick as a society. 💡🔎

Political Predictions & Racism through Search Engine Data

Ever thought Google could predict elections better than the pundits? “Everybody Lies” drops a bombshell by demonstrating how analyzing Google search data can give more accurate election predictions than traditional polls.

The book tells how certain search data gives very strong indicators about which way a state will vote for elections. It’s pretty accurate.

It also tells us how people usually search for jokes when they’re already in a good mood and the economy is good, not when they’re in a bad mood. It disproves the idea that people will more likely search for jokes and comedy when things are going bad.

Probably the most intriguing insight was how there was a thoughtful investigation done to see which US states were the most racist through search data. There are a lot of articles about the discoveries, like this one. And it’s surprising to find that the most racist areas are around the Appalachian mountains, going all the way up to the North near the east coast. It is not the South that is the most racist.

The book explains how racism is very hard to measure traditionally because people cover it up and don’t want to appear racist when surveyed or asked. But with Google search, they’re more open to behave how they want without feeling like they’re being judged. Hence, big data on an aggregate scale is the best indicator of how people are really thinking. I’ll let you discover the details in the book, but they examined a more racist version of the N word to try to get a more accurate indicator of racism coming from racist people.

Exploring the Dark Side

This book doesn’t shy away from the dark and mysterious side of human behavior. We’re talking hidden prejudices, secret vices, and all the taboos people usually keep hush-hush about. Brace yourself for some uncomfortable truths!

While the book has a playful, upbeat energy, the results of the data aren’t always that nice. We already touched on one with racism not being only in the south. There are other things revealed. For example, they examined search data right after Obama’s speech about tolerance for Muslims. I won’t spoil the findings, but one topic they discussed was why it may have sparked more intolerance based on the searches afterwards. That is something that no other methodology could have picked up as accurately before the Internet came along!

Money-Making Economic Insights

“Everybody Lies” dives headfirst into the deep end of economics. It introduces us to unusual indicators, like analyzing search volume for specific products or terms, which can predict economic trends and market behavior. Say goodbye to boring old economic forecasts! 📈💰

There was a passage about making money with these insights given that it is a common question the author gets asked. The author shows that this is difficult to do because if you try to apply this to the stock market, as he did, almost everything you can think of has already been tried by some hedge fund. Plus, these areas tend to be a lot more complicated because there’s so many more variables and factors influencing each other so it becomes a multi-variate analysis, which is a lot more hairy than the examples in his book. He walks through a few schemes he tried. I figure he could think more creatively than the stock market, somewhere less competitive, but that’s where he stopped.

One amazing story he tells is how this one man was able to accurately predict which horse would win and how difficult it is to predict that. He did so by thinking outside the box and measuring all sorts of parts of a horse that other people didn’t. He even built a custom machine that could measure the ventricle size of a living horse. Through that, he was able to pick up horses that were overlooked by others that won big. He only revealed his secret to the author decades later because he was retired and more concerned about leaving a legacy and proving he did it. One lesson the author asserts is that you don’t need to know why something works, you just need to know a correlation exists. This man had no idea why the ventricle size lead to increased speed, but it didn’t matter to his success. (Given that I studied biology, it makes perfect sense to me. The heart chamber pumps blood throughout the body. The larger the chamber, the stronger the pump, which means more blood and oxygen throughout the body per pump.)

I wish the author was more creative and took the lessons from this to apply to making money outside of the stock market, but the book ends there regarding money making.

Relationships and Online Dating

Prepare to uncover the nitty-gritty of online dating! Like other sections, I wish this section revealed more than the obvious. That said, the author is often quick to admit when his findings are already known by the general public. Women care about height and income in men, big surprise.

He did give one interesting point about how studies show what body language signs indicate someone will see you after a speed date. Women like to laugh at your jokes. And they tend to respond with less absolutes if they’re unsure, like “maybe” or “we’ll see.”

Not really the most revolutionary insights. I think this section had the most need for improvement and the use of big data rather than small experiments.

The author also somehow got access to the big data behind a large adult website to glean insights. His insight was that people will search for all sorts of different things when it comes to adult content, so “there is someone out there who likes you for you.” I didn’t find this insight the most convincing because he failed to account for supply and demand. There is likely a pretty blonde out there who likes nerdy gamers who never go to the gym. That said, there’s probably a lot more gamers who would want to date the blonde than blondes who can supply those gamers.

Privacy and Ethical Dilemmas

While we’re having a blast exploring the power of data, let’s not forget the ethical concerns. “Everybody Lies” reminds us of the importance of privacy in this brave new digital world. It’s a wild ride, but we’ve got to remember our seatbelts! 🔒

The Future

The book details how this is just the beginning. Data will become the new gold rush, and it will change how we see the world. We’re at the start of a new era where the new job that will lead the future is a data scientist. Because of the emergence of lots of new big data and Internet of Things platforms, there will be more opportunities to mine the data and uncover insights. This book was written before YouTube and Netflix became the giants they are, and I couldn’t help thinking of how much their algorithms are already mining the data to get us to stay and watch more.


“Everybody Lies” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is your backstage pass to the exhilarating world of big data and the mind-boggling truths it can uncover about human behavior. This book challenges conventional wisdom while serving up tantalizing insights across various domains. So, whether you’re a data geek or just curious about the secrets lurking in your Google searches, this book is your ticket to the front row! 🎫🌟

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By Will Chou

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