Researchers at University College London say their findings from a quantitative analysis of Google searches suggest there may be a link between online behavior and real-world economic indicators.
"The Internet is becoming ever more deeply interwoven into the fabric of global society," UCL mathematician Helen Susannah Moat said.
"We were interested in whether we could find cross-country differences in basic online search behavior which could be linked to real world indicators of socioeconomic wellbeing such as per capita GDP," she said.
The researchers examined Google search queries made by Internet users in 45 different countries in 2010, to calculate the ratio of the volume of searches for the next year, 2011, to the volume of searches for the previous year, 2009, to create a "future orientation index."
They found a strong tendency for countries in which Google users inquire more about the future, as expressed by the "future orientation index," to have a higher GDP, they said.
"These findings may reflect international differences in attention to the future and the past, where a focus on the future supports economic success," Tobias Preis, a UCL visiting researcher from Boston University, said.