Our culture looks down upon skeptics, but it’s important to be selectively skeptical — especially in the advertising realm. Take nothing for granted and make no assumptions. Thats what I tell my team. Which always bring me back to Scottish Philosopher David Hume, who separated himself from rationalists like Descartes by insisting that desire rather than reason governs human behavior. And as I sit in focus groups and kitchens across the world, I try to keep this in mind. People may appear to act reasonably – and we may make conclusions based on the most reasonable explanations — but when studying social behavior, as we do, it’s extremely easy to assume we know the answer – when perhaps the questions we are asking ourselves are all wrong?
Most notably, Hume analyses causal propositions, such as “A caused B”, in terms of regularities in our perception: “A caused B” is equivalent to “Whenever A-type events happen, B-type ones follow.”
All too often we just jump to the conclusion that A caused B — because it appears to happen this way often — but here’s where a little skepticism can help us. B may tend to always follow A, but let’s concentrate less on the A to B pattern and more on what falls between A and B…
I hate sudoku — and sitting next to people on airplanes doing sudoku (or is it “playing”?). Regardless, scientists love using puzzles to study what they call insight thinking, the leaps of understanding that seem to come out of nowhere. And this interests me. There’s a cool piece in the NYT that discusses the appeal of puzzle thinking — and how being in a good mood may help you solve tough issues without over thinking. Love this part: Puzzles are reassuringly soluble; but like any serious problem, they require more than mere intellect to crack…Isn’t that true about so many things?