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Hey Russell -
I just read that review of "Why?" yesterday, and I also started thinking about different types of explanations in communications research.

If how we feel about a brand is usually explained by a fantastically complex set of factors (memories from childhood, brands our peers use, ads from 10 years ago), it's probably best explained as a story - we may both buy a Sony TV, but there's a different history that brought each of us to choose it.

But in market research, the answers people give sound more like what Gladwell says "Why?" calls conventions: "It's a good value", "my family likes it", "it's reliable." And most market research probably encourages people to answer in conventions (for some of the reasons Gladwell talks about in "Blink"), and doesn't encourage the telling of personal stories. Many of these stories are probably complex and somwhat buried such that they are hard to access on the spot in a focus group.

Anyway, that's my half-thought through take on it so far. Make any sense?

Re: market research explanations: Most likely it's because "research subjects" speak in market research conventions. That is, they've learned a certain way of speaking when giving research input so that they sound credible, thoughtful, etc. Ultimately this all begs the question of if there's a way of speaking authentically (or absent conventions) - my guess is probably not. Even more provocatively is the notion that "authentic" real speech is itself guided by a set of conventions. Ah - language games! takes me back to lit crit classes....

This issue of the New Yorker is also notable for the words spelled out in scrabble tiles on the cover. Among them, Ebola. Coincidence?

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