For several centuries, we have been able to observe how technological development has accelerated dramatically. In fact, we are at a time when, every few years, new breakthroughs of great importance in different fields emerge and which can also mean a significant breakthrough in the development of other disciplines. Among these are “Big Data” technologies, which greatly facilitate data analysis. And this can be put to good use by disciplines like psychology Can you establish a profitable relationship between big data and psychology? In this article we will talk about it.
Big Data: what is it?
Before moving on to the view of the type of relationship that can exist between Big Data and psychology, it is necessary to make a small mention of what big data technologies are or imply.
By big data technologies we mean all of this technology that allows the recording, processing and analysis of large amounts of information in giant data repositories (Big Data itself would refer to the high volume of data), of such a size that its capture, management, analysis and processing by conventional means would be complex and expensive.
This allows you to perform all of these processes at high speed, often even in real time, a little bit of great utility in several disciplines and this makes it possible to know the current state of the various processes or elements to be analyzed. The collection of all this data is a common thing today across different applications and networks, asking us to manage, record and use some of the data stored there and its use can be an element that provides information on a specific topic.
The information that is part of these repositories refers to both structured and unstructured data, so it can include large amounts of both quantitative and qualitative information and of varying levels of complexity. We could talk for example about the behavior of European citizens on Facebook, or all the information available on the web about our lives, or complete data on the different tasks, payroll and positions held by all members of a company . It can also be used to analyze a person’s every gesture throughout an interview.
Big data and psychology: a profitable relationship?
There are many branches of science and knowledge that can benefit from the use of this technology. in order to generate more knowledge and benefits for the population, as well as for purely commercial use. Among the disciplines for which the use of Big Data can be useful is psychology.
In this sense, Big Data makes it possible to obtain a wealth of information on human behavior and the mental processes that underlie it, whether or not we are confronted with aspects of health. It allows us to analyze behavior patterns and their possible effects by extrapolating the data collected by different means. Expressions and trends are very easily visible, as well as the contrast of point data against typical patterns.
Comparison with other subjects is also facilitated. Also, thanks to the rapid comparison of characteristics and different types of data, new explanatory models of the functioning of different pathologies or social movements have been produced, for example. Integrating Big Data into psychological practice in its different fields of application is an element that accelerates the collection of information, the making of forecasts and the possibility of establishing and developing different prevention policies.
However, it should be noted that Big Data it will only reflect dirty data to usIt is our duty to determine whether this data is justified or not, whether it has implications, what is useful or not or how it should be interpreted. We have not overestimated its importance or relied entirely on the data obtained by this means, since it is much easier to reflect the relationships between variables the larger a sample. And a much more relevant aspect: the ethical implications of collecting large volumes of personal information need to be thoroughly evaluated, which requires drawing boundaries between using useful information and collecting unnecessary information for achieve the targeted objectives.
Different psychological areas in which Big Data can be very useful
The advent of Big Data technologies, because of the possibilities of analyzing the large amount of data they offer, can be very useful in many areas of psychology. In order to clear things up, here are a few examples of areas where you can find a profitable relationship between big data and psychology.
1. Marketing and advertising
One of the areas where big data and psychology can go hand in hand and which is most obvious is in marketing and advertising. It is one of the most commercial and well-known goals of this relationship, it is common on social networks and online advertising. In this sense, searches, keywords and user behavior in networks are analyzed, in principle with prior consent (although the use of many networks implies acceptance of the right to register and use those data).
2. Human resources and workplace
Another area in which it is common to observe the relationship between the two elements is the workplace. Especially in terms of human resources and personnel selection, the use of big data can allow you to select and analyze the behavior, the way of acting, the opinions, the tastes and the skills of the candidates, as well as register and evaluate the type of profiles that best suit the company.
Once inside the company, you can assess the performance and performance of employees, the presence of elements that modify them, their level of satisfaction with the work and tasks performed or the type of interaction between the different work teams.
3. Clinical psychology
Although less visible than the previous ones, it is also possible to harness the potential of Big Data technologies at the clinical practice level. Detect depressive behavior, suicidal tendenciesAbnormal or delusional thoughts (for example from internet research) or even basic personality types are some of the options offered by big data. The amount of information processed allows us to introduce and take into account various aspects that can influence the possibility of suffering from a certain type of psychopathology.
Risk and protective factors can also be assessedFactors influencing the epidemiology and prognosis, the presence of differential aspects in each case, or the efficacy or progress made in the administration of treatments are examples.
4. Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology and criminology can also benefit from the use of these technologies. Analyze data concerning a subject or a crime, behavior patternsThe criminal profiles, the testimonies or the experience or the expressions of both the victim and the aggressor can more easily allow the analysis of the cases, the search for explanations, evidence or possible perpetrators or even the possibility of recidivism of a murderer.
Probably the area which can find greater use in the use of Big Data, and which in turn will allow progress in all others, is research (both in psychology and beyond).
Evaluate the presence of certain variables (including pathologies) in the population, the impact that generated a certain event or movement, behaviors and opinions expressedThe opinion raised by certain questions, the impact of certain products, the way of grouping and relating or cultural expression and its effects on the life of the population are some examples of elements that can be taken into account and analyzed more easily.
- Armayones, M .; Gómez-Zúñiga, B .; Hernández, E. and Pousada, M. (2015). Big data and psychology: an opportunity for the popular Internet? Aloma, 33 (2): 21-29.