Robert K. Merton died the other day. Who is Robert K. Merton? Well, aside from being the father of the focus group, that imperfect but there's nothing better tool that helps companies, politicians, and more decide what we get to buy, consume, and understand, Merton helped advance sociological study of ourselves. This short paragraph from a Times article by Patricia Cohen nicely sums up Merton permeated into our daily lives:
"Even if most people haven't heard of Merton, they have probably heard of his ideas. He coined the phrase 'self-fulfilling prophecy' and developed the idea of 'role models'" He invented the focus group interview, which has turned into the bedside tool of every political consultant and advertising executive. He formed a theory of 'deviant behavior,' explaining why people broke the rules when they couldn't achieve success playing by them."
He had taught at Columbia and received a National Medal of Science in 1997. Read the Columbia coverage. His son, Columbia graduate Robert C. Merton, won the Nobel Prize in Economics. The elder Merton had just received word his book on serendipity would be pubilshed...a little more on the word serendipity.
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