Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cultural anthropologists rock.

Life is a chaotic disarray. It's a million colliding elements in every moment, a melange of emotion, fate, and relationships. It's the impact of the past with the present, of future desires and present conditions, and of so much more. To make sense of it all, we humans weave singular stories together from a myriad of threads and motivations. And in our eyes, everything that doesn't make the story no longer exists.

But that just means we're blind to a vast majority of existence--not to mention the powerful driving forces in our subconscious. But the fact that we're blind to them doesn't make them meaningless. In fact, they're often primary to the way events unfold, the choices we make, the lives we lead. It's like dark energy in physics. We can't see it, but it makes up most of our universe. And better yet, it keeps the university from collapsing in upon itself.

Which leads to the title of this post. A few years back I read an article about how some cultural anthropologists, in their attempt to help a large hotel's advertising efforts, used direct observation to deduce who in a family decided what hotel to stay in. If I remember correctly, interviews with these families had indicated that it was the adult male who made the decision. But the cultural anthropologists observed that the adult male merely signed off on a decision that the adult female had already made in conjunction with the children. So advertising was adjusted appropriately, with men appropriately sidelined.

In other words, we often say one thing, do another. No surprise there. Our complex, ever-changing world and flickering, multi-layered minds can't fit into our simple personal narratives. But they can direct our actions in surprising ways. So here's a toast to you, the cultural anthropologists who've joined us on the advertising pitch.

No comments:

Post a Comment