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Let's Gather Some Data, Shall We?

The story goes that, upon hearing of Richard Nixon's election triumph, a resident of New York's tony Upper East Side exclaimed "But how could that happen?  Everybody I know voted for McGovern!"

Usually attributed to film critic Pauline Kael, it's an example of the logical fallacy known as hasty generalization: drawing an overbroad conclusion based on a statistically insufficient sample. 

From the Wall Street Journal:

"In reality, Kael was more self-aware than that. What she actually said, as reported by the Times in December 1972, was: "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon." But you see how the fallacy works: By her own account, Kael led a parochial life, seldom venturing outside her "special world." If she had mistaken her circle of acquaintances for a representative sample of Americans, she would have been mystified by the election outcome."


To a certain extent, we all live "parochial lives."  We can't do everything, see everything or know everyone.  But successful marketers and strategists maintain the self-awareness to recognize the trap and say "Hmm.  Maybe we need to gather some data here."

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