By now everyone knows that Facebook has ensured your personal data is in the hands of other companies. New reports say Peter Thiel’s company Palantir has enormous amounts of information on US citizens.

We live in the millennial generation of social media and casual hookups, and the invasion of privacy is the new sexy. Often masquerading as security measures, demographic study, or for market research, well-programmed algorithms are sucking out information about our lives through not just social media but also devices such as our phones.

But what do marketing companies and influence-peddling services actually do with all this data? That’s where the discipline of psychographics comes in. It is the qualitative study of the psychological activities, interests and opinions (AIOs) of individuals who become consumers for everything ranging from clothes and shoes to lifestyle medication and politicians standing for elections.

No wonder it is now a powerful tool in the field of marketing, social and opinion research, demographics, and most recently, in winning elections. Psychographics involves the study of individuals and communities or groups and creates a “psychographic profile”, which reduces people to the categories of AIOs, attitudes, values and behaviour – after which communication most likely to appeal to each such profile can be designed and delivered.

Of course, psychography is not a new field, and has been used as an important marketing technique for decades. But it is only recently that the expansive and intrusive use of technology has joined forces with it and made it a ubiquitous presence. And the field became infamous when Cambridge Analytica accessed the personal data of between 50 million and 87 million Facebook users in order to, among other things, market Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Psychographics is as fascinating as it is unsettling. Can those who have your personal data use psychographic profiling to undermine your free democratic choice? Here is a list of books to help learn more on the subject.

Beyond Mind Games: The Marketing Power of Psychographics, Rebecca Piirto (1991)

The first book of its kind, Beyond Mind Games by Rebecca Piirto explains the evolution of psychographics, and how the regular consumer can use it in her daily life. It elaborates further on the methods used, explaining how they go beyond simple statistics and use qualitative techniques to gather information on consumers’ mentality. It is also splattered with anecdotes about how marketers, advertisers, retailers and manufacturers use this form of data to amplify their work.

Values, Lifestyles and Psychographics, Lynn R Kahle and Larry Chiagouris (2016)

Kahle and Chiagouris, both active scholars, curate a set of papers that were presented at the annual Advertising and Consumer Psychology Conference on psychographics and its use in advertising. The diverse, international mix of authors who contribute to this collection is what sets the book apart. Right from providing advertising research and improving methodology, to explaining how psychographic research is used to understand different people across different national borders and timeframes, this book helps marketers and advertisers to understand the consumer better. It displays the practical manifestation of psychographic research.

Life Style and Psychographics, William D Wells (2011)

A professor of advertising at the University of Minnesota, Wells was previously a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Chicago. His book helps readers grasp how psychographics functions as part of our daily lifestyle. Not only does it provide information on the conceptual, measurement, and analytical problems in lifestyle research, but it also sheds light on the developments of psychographics. A must-read for market researchers, strategists, as well as students of business, economics and psychology.

Psychographic Segmentation of Investors: A Case Study, Dhoot Priyanka and Bhola Sarang (2013)

The authors have compiled their research on the psychographic study and profiling of investors into this book in the form of a case study. Demographic and psychographic variables are employed to collect statistical data and organise psychographic profiles. This is done in order to go deeper into the psychological fabric that makes up investors and their larger investment patterns. While the book is highly useful for those who work with investors, want to understand their behaviours, and predict their outcomes, it is also a study in how such data is used to guide consumers towards desired goals.

Effect of Psychographic Factors on Consumer’s Attitude: Toward Cause Related Marketing, Chandan Thakur (2017)

In this insightful read, Thakur leads us through the relationship between psychographic factors and the consumer’s relationship toward cause-related-marketing (CRM) – which appears in another avatar as marketing of political parties for elections. By studying various consumer hypotheses such as social responsibility, self-confidence, religiosity, and public self-consciousness, Thakur shows us how psychographics is used in creating these categories. He also explains how psychographics studies the manner in which consumer behaviour can be guided towards positive responses.

Putin’s Psychological Profile: The Psychographic Study of Personality, Vladimir Zakharov (2018)

After his re-election into his fourth Presidential term, Vladimir Putin has become a fascination among scholars and the layperson. It’s no surprise that there have been attempts to analyse and profile Putin’s psyche and personality, and Zakharov explicates how psychographics is a valuable tool to understand political leaders. This book is a must-read for all those interested in the personality and psychological makeup of a powerful figure, offering answers through the qualitative study of his behaviour, attitudes and opinions.