A special report on television viewing in the May 1, 2010 edition of the Economist stated “. . . people seem unaware of their own behavior. In surveys they almost always underestimate how much television they watch, and greatly overstate the extent to which they watch video in any other form . . .”
One of the important assumptions underpinning intuitive approaches is that people are largely unaware of their behavior. This implies that personal descriptions of behavior are heavily laced with personal and collective emotional drivers. A similar effect occurs when different people describe an accident; descriptions vary.
This example is particularly fascinating for two reasons. First, for most people television viewing occupies a large chunk of daily activity (4 to 8 hours). Second, they tend to watch over 40% more television than they think, and tend to think they watch other video formats almost four times more than they actually do! Therefore, we are not talking about insignificant activities or variations.
However, here is the important question unanswered by the article: What are the emotional drivers causing people to underestimate television viewing and to overestimate the viewing of other videos formats so drastically? Could television viewing, while popular, still be viewed as the “idiot box?” Could other video formats, because of their better interactivity, give the user a greater feeling of control and thus greater cultural acceptability? If so, perhaps people want to believe they aren’t idiots and they have their viewing under control?
A similar effect commonly occurs in business – but perhaps more consciously – when subordinates will overestimate the time spent on approved activities and underestimate disapproved ones. Regardless, the point is that applying an intuitive approach means having a handle on all emotional drivers – individual and collective – lacing any communication.