Friday, January 15, 2010

Real Reasons

Surveys can ask people why they do a thing or feel a certain way, but how accurate is that really? If a person is asked why they think a certain thing, their true answer would be something that, if proven wrong, would change their mind. If they give a reason and you prove that reason to be invalid, yet they still believe, their answer was not their real reason.
If I tell you that I am not going to the store today, even tho we very much need milk for the cereal, you can ask me why. I can say because it is cold out. However, if there is a huge thaw this afternoon, and you ask me if I will go to the store now, and I refuse, then cold was not the reason. If you tell me that they fixed the bridge between here and the store, and I suddenly change my mind about going for milk, then you could conclude that the real reason I would not go was not the cold but my fear of failure of the damaged bridge. Or if you told me it was now warm out and I say I cannot because there is no gas in the car, the lack of gasoline is not really the answer. The real answer is either that I lack the ambition to get gas AND milk or possibly that I lack money for gas and milk. But the lack of gas in the gas tank of the car is not the reason, no matter if I say it is.
Somewhere one time I read that to find the true answer you should ask why seven times. That would lead to more accurate truths in come cases, such as the gasoline situation, where the conversation would go like this:
You: Why won't you go for milk?
Me: There is no gas in the car.
You: Why can't you get gas?
Me: I don't feel like it.
You: Why don't you feel like it?
Me: I am just not interested in going.
You: Why aren't you interested in going?
Me: I just feel . . . like I have no energy.
You: Why?
Me: I don't know. I feel that way a lot this time of year.
You: Why?
Me: I don't know. Maybe it is that seasonal thing you get from not enough sunlight.
You: So you don't feel this lack of ambition as much in other seasons?
Me: No, I guess I don't.

Because the answer first given went in a direction toward the true reason, the successive questioning can lead to a better answer that might be nearer the truth. Getting nearer the truth could lead to solutions, such as getting outdoors more to get more sunshine or taking Vitamin D!
But in the case of using cold as an answer when fear of the bridge was the real answer, the conversation might go like this:
You: Why don't you want to get milk?
Me: It's too cold.
You: It's not nearly as cold as it was.
Me: Now it's wet out.
You: Why don't you like to be out when it is wet out?
Me: Feels icky and uncomfortable.

You can see that no matter how many times we ask why here, we are never going to get to the real reason that is fear of the safety of the damaged bridge. No amount of detailed questioning will lead to the right answer, since the first answer lacked the insight of being even close to the truth.
So unless the person giving the reasons is self-aware enough to know at least a little bit of why they feel a certain way or think a certain thing or do a certain thing, no amount of asking is ever going to get to the real reasons. How can a survey ever get to real truths when we think like we do?

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