Chapter 3

The Data Effect

A Glut at the End of the Rainbow

We are up to our ears in data, but how much can this raw material really tell us? What actually makes it predictive? Does existing data go so far as to reveal the collective mood of the human populace? If yes, how does our emotional online chatter relate to the economy’s ups and downs?

The Data of Feelings and the Feelings of Data

The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.

—William James

In 2009, two University of Illinois scientists discovered a stunning connection between our collective emotions and our collective behavior. This work addressed the question of which comes first, emotion or action. Do feelings follow behavior:


Or does action come after feelings:


Of course, it works both ways. Things happen in the world around you, and feelings ensue. Your client cancels an order, and you feel disappointed. Conversely, your feelings influence your behavior. You are in a terrific mood and decide to give your lazy car mechanic another chance.

Emotions don’t usually fall within the domain of predictive analytics (PA). Feelings plainly are not concrete things easily tabulated in a spreadsheet as facts and figures. They’re ephemeral and subjective. Sure, they ...

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