Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

I came across the following video from a friend's GTalk status message. You would have most probably watched this video, either on someone's status message or in a forward. It would have definitely provoked some emotion simply because every viewer identifies himself or herself with one of the respondents on the video. In that way, it is a pretty nice video. 

But it was interesting to see the comments. Some people got moved and agreed wholeheartedly. Whereas some others took the "heretical" stand and said, "Spend. That is the way to boost the economy". However, I was interested in some other things about the video.

a) Let us take the methodology. It is a survey and the question is fairly straight forward. "What would you do if you got Rs. 500?" Usually respondents are anonymous in a survey. It makes sense because that way people are likely to be more forthright with their opinions. On the other hand, this "survey" seems to reinforce the stereotypes. All the young people seem to have "frivolous" wants i.e piercings, booze (oh no!) and smokes (oh no no!), eating joints etc. And clearly, the sponsors of the video had a motive, there was a message they wanted to convey. So you can expect the responses to have been chosen with a bias. 

The reason this point occurred to me was I would have never said some of these things if I knew I was being filmed. My actual response would have been (if the survey were anonymous) "500... I will spend it on food." What would have happened is that it would have got spent on food, alcohol or a bus trip to Chennai. If I knew it were on TV, I would have said,"Buy a ticket to go home by Volvo bus" (Awww... :P) I think there is a term in Kotler for this, but I will call it "Posing effects". How you pose the question i.e wording as well as environment affects response in a very strong manner. (Is it called Framing Effects?)

Therefore, I am pleasantly surprised that some people were frank enough to admit what they really wanted. In Indian society, I believe there is a lot of false humility and false virtuousity that goes around (yours truly included) and if people are coming on TV and saying what they would really think, 3 cheers for that. 

Another feature of presenting such a survey is that the viewer cannot help forming a moral judgement on the respondent, because the viewer now has well... additional data - body language, face, clothes etc. Imagine an older person seeing the guy who said he would get a piercing or the girl who said she would get a haircut, the temptation to form a judgement is inevitable. Again, the question is just "What would you do if got Rs. 500?" The respondents may not have known the context their responses were going to be presented in. It may appear that some people are staggeringly selfish. But how do you know the respondent does not do some sort of charity already. If I gave Rs. 1000 from my income as a habit to charity and spent this Rs. 500 on alcohol would that make me good or bad? Also I don't mean to trivialize but if you asked a kid how he/she would spend money, the response can never be booze or smoke or even piercings.

Again I think I am overthinking this. The video is pretty nice at the end of the day and very very thought provoking. I only wished they had shown the responses and left the ending as a question and let the viewer take away his/her own message. This led me to a different string of thought that I have published here.


Anonymous said...

In Indian society, I believe there is a lot of false humility and false virtuousity that goes around.

Why this specialization? Give an example of a place outside where this is not true. I find it quite offensive, to say the least.

themiddler said...


Perhaps you are offended because it may sound as if I were disparaging India vis-a-vis the western nations. That was not my intention at all.

However, when compared to western societies, we do not talk our minds enough and this can actually be a bad thing.

For example, there is a lot of emphasis on seniority and kowtowing to authority. While it has reduced, it can reduce more.

vineet mohan said...

i have a feeling the whole video was scripted just for the message or idea they wanted to convey.. that might explain the rather 'seemingly frank and sincere' responses :)