the future orientation index

I’ve recently discovered Google Trends and have been looking for an opportunity to use it. Today I found such opportunity in a paper [1] published last April that computes countries’ “future orientation index” from Google Trends data and correlates it with national per-capita GDP. The authors report correlation for 2010; my experiment with Google Trends reported here tests their idea for 2011.

The paper’s authors propose that the future orientation index serves as a measurement of how much a country’s population looks forward into the future, and propose that stronger economies correlate with more future-oriented thinking. They define the future orientation index as the number of Google searches for year x+1 originating in that country during year x divided by the number of searches for year x-1 originating in that country during year x. The Google Trends query to extract such data has to include year x+1 and year x-1 at the same time so that the scaling is correct, since Google Trends reports relative search numbers rather than absolute counts. The image below shows graphical output for x = 2011. I downloaded a CSV of the output for this analysis.


The paper then demonstrates that a positive correlation exists between national per-capita GDP and the future orientation index. Here I depart from their study by dividing the 141 countries returned by Google Trends into G-20 and non-G-20 countries, and then plotting their future orientation indices in box plots:


The result shows that the economically strong G-20 countries generally have a higher future orientation index, which jives with the findings of the paper (Kruskal-Wallis rank sum test for equality:  p=0.0004361; t-test that the G-20 group has greater future orientation index than the non-G-20 group:  p=0.0003101).


  1. Preis, T., Moat, H.S., Stanley, H.E., & Bishop, S. R. Quantifying the Advantage of Looking Forward. Sci. Rep. 2, 350; DOI:10.1038/srep00350 (2012).

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