Robin Hanson asks in a recent post on her blog Overcomingbias, “Why is modest question evasion so often tolerated in TV and radio interviews?” Her question was sparked by a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology’s April Issue that found that listeners often won’t notice discrepancies between the question that was asked and the answer that is delivered as long as it is done smoothly and confidently.
And that’s not all, some people prefer to hear a wrong answer artfully delivered rather than the right answer delivered awkwardly. Here is what the study authors, Harvard psychologists Todd Rogers and Michael Norton said:
“We propose that dodges go undetected because listeners' attention is not usually directed toward a goal of dodge detection (i.e., Is this person answering the question?) but rather toward a goal of social evaluation (i.e., Do I like this person?). Listeners were not blind to all dodge attempts, however. Dodge detection increased when listeners' attention was diverted from social goals toward determining the relevance of the speaker's answers, when speakers answered a question egregiously dissimilar to the one asked, and when listeners' attention was directed to the question asked by keeping it visible during speakers' answers…”