People love surveys, asking user preferences or why they did this or that, or why they like one thing better than another. The problem with this approach lies in the fact that we humans don’t know why we do things! A large part of behavior is unconscious…we simply are not aware of how biology and culture condition our behaviors. These mechanisms do not need conscious awareness to work. They simply do, which makes us efficient (we don’t have to think through every behavior we do). While this is an evolutionary advantage, the downside of it is that we are not very good at being reflective. And when asked by a researcher, we make stuff up on the spot…inventing reasons that may or may not have anything to do with our behavior or choice. David Travis, in his usability masterclass, offers several good examples. My favorite is a women’s stockings study…where women were asked which pair of stockings they liked among 3 options presented on a table. Most chose the stockings on the right. When asked why, they made up all kinds of reasons. But guess what? The stockings were all exactly the same. The reason is called the “positioning effect.” Consider this. Would any of the reasons given be good for explaining their behavior?