Why I hate why #MRX

The number one question researchers want answered is why. Why did you buy that? Why did you eat that? Why did you recommend that? Why did you vote for them? It’s an important question and it’s often where magical insight comes from.

colorwheel simple

So let’s test the why question. Tell me, which colour in this colour wheel is your favourite? I’ll wait right here while you choose…. And now, tell me WHY that is your favourite colour.

Do you like it because it’s bright? Because it’s calm? Because it’s bold? Happy? Peaceful? Cheerful?

My answer is easy. I like the purple slice. Why? Because it’s bright and I like bright colours. (Even if the only bright colours I wear are bright  frogs and penguins on my socks.)

But that doesn’t answer the why question at all. Let’s switch over to the second colour wheel. On this wheel, I am still going to choose the purple because it’s bright. But, I could have easily picked any other colour in the same ring, colours that all fall into the same ‘brightness’ category. Colour experts will tell you that each of the colours in the rings has the exact same degree of brightness. So, the fact that I chose brightness as my reason explains nothing. I could have chosen the blue or green or yellow with the identical degree of brightness.


Alright, then let me try again. I like the purple slice because purple is a happy colour. Happy? How is it any happier than any of the other colours? Isn’t the bright green or the bright yellow just as happy? Can a colour really be happy?

If I use my best introspection techniques and ponder for an hour, I still have absolutely no idea why I like the purple slice.

I also have no idea why…

  • I love nanaimo bars which are just as sweet and creamy and chocolatey as many other treats. Why nanaimo bars?
  • I’m not a fan of modern art. But, of course, modern art is just as strange/pointless/dull as many other things that I DO like. Why don’t I like modern art?

It is pointless to ask why. People do not truly know why they like or dislike anything. And if you decide you’re going to find out why, prepare to be 5 year-old child who can ask why for 12 hours straight. Because once you get an answer to the question why, the only possible next step it to ask… why?


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2 responses

  1. I found the best definition of why question in Dirk Lorré and Benoit Gaillard article Connecting Statements (Research World, Nov – Dec 2011). They say that why “is not one of the most appropriate question to post directly to consumers. When you ask “Why?” you are asking people to justify their own behavior, leading people towards social desirability”

  2. Bonnie Sherman


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