"Why" is the elusive foundation.
Why do people do what they do? Why do people feel the way they feel? It would be great if we could just ask people “why do you do that?” but intentions do not always translate into actual behavior and personal preferences do not always translate into purchase decisions. "Why?" is a slippery little question.
Fortunately, new thinking in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics has improved our understanding of human motivations and behavior. These advances shed light on why “why?” is so tricky and what we can do about it.
the science behind "why"
A growing body of academic evidence suggests people are not very good at providing explanations for their behavior or at predicting what they're likely to do. Much of the recent thinking suggests people make many of their decisions without too much conscious deliberation and without fully understanding the underlying reasons.
Even more importantly, asking people for reasons underlying their behavior tends to result in post facto constructed explanations which people may believe to be true but which may not actually reflect the whole picture. Studies suggest these constructed explanations are a function of the need we have to be able to explain our behavior even when we don't know what caused it.
an indirect approach proves more effective
It turns out an indirect approach is more effective at revealing drivers of behavior. Studies show the reasons for behavior can be more effectively revealed by examining the narratives of what happened rather than by asking why it happened. Focusing on context makes the difference. For this reason, studying narratives of actual experiences is far more useful than asking people for explanations.