Saturday, 31 March 2007

I don't know

Next time you observe a survey result notice how few respondents vote 'don't know'. It says a lot about us, but two things strike me in particular: Firstly, we are a people of extremes: Yes or no, left or right, us or them. Secondly, we are a people of too many answers and not enough questions.

Am I right? Yes? No? Not sure? Maybe?

7 comments:

Haji said...

I agree and I disagree, we as humans like to be opinionated, and not knowing is kinda admitting to a lack of decisiveness or lack of knowledge, so we make snap judgments and go for the Yes or No. But its not necessarily true, if the Survey asked Who will win the Champions League Final (of Liverpool/Chelse or AC Milan/Man U) then surely everyone will have an opinion whether they are the fans of a team or not, "Don't know" would be pointless answer?
So I guess it depends on the question!

twp said...

I see no problem answering "don't know" to your example question. Unlike "everyone" (as you put it), I think there is an equal chance for each team at this stage and I would express this with a "don't know" answer.

I believe "don't know" is a valid answer for all opinion-based questions. Please provide a counter-example to support your conclusion ("... it depends on the question").

Haji said...

I think my proposition needs changing...I believe "Don't know" isn't actually an answer at all, the whole point of survey questions is to see someone's standpoint on a topic, "don't know" is just ignoring the question! If you have to answer "don't know" then you probably shouldn't have been asked in the first place. Maybe my beef is with the surveyors and not the surveyees?

twp said...

Yes, forcing someone to answer "yes" or "no" when they don't have an opinion on the matter would obscure results. Thus we should agree that "don't know" is a valid response to measure how many people do not have an opinion on the issue.

This Soul said...

twp said...
"I believe "don't know" is a valid answer for all opinion-based questions. Please provide a counter-example to support your conclusion ("... it depends on the question"). "

How about the question "Do you like the rain?"

Is "Don't know" invalid?

twp said...

That is another excellent example of why a neutral response would be required. It doesn't necessarily have to be "don't know". As an individual I may be "undecided" bceause I have not properly weighed out the pros and cons, or I may respond "yes and no" because I equally like the life it brings but dislike the wetness that results.

This Soul said...

"Undecided" - that's an excellent response!