Whilst compiling material for some other work I stumbled across some old Family Fortunes and Family Feud 'funny/strange' answers on YouTube*.
I've recently being doing a lot of thinking around framing, ref , and the problems it can cause and solve and I started thinking about different causes for the unexpected answers.
For communication analysis I use two types of exercise, (1) frame analysis and (2) word and meaning substitution.
- What are the aspects that might be important to each person involved in the communication? This usually revolves around situational context of either the one asking the question (presenting the problem) or the one answering the question (presenting a solution). Here there is scope for a range of cognitive and interpretation mistakes.
- A well-known example of this is the "Mary had a little lamb" exercise, described in "Are you lights on", ref , and is a demonstration of how changing the emphasis of a word in a sentence, or replacing a word with a similar meaning (from a dictionary or thesaurus), can change the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, if both parties in the communication intend different word emphasis (in word placement or interpretation) then there is a possibility of confusion.
The questions are typically prefixed with "We asked 100 people to name..."
Q: Something a husband and wife should have separate of
Logical answer(?) but maybe not along the intended lines of the questioner.
Q: A planet you recognize just by looking at a picture of it
A: The Moon
Confusion of definition of planet with 'celestial body' (something in space with an orbit)
Q: A month of spring
Slip of the ear, of->after(?), ref 
Q: A word that starts with the letter Q
Q. Name a part of the body beginning with 'N'
Q: The movie where John Travolta gave his most memorable performance
A: The John Travolta Biography
'Most memorable performance' to the questioner had a potentially different meaning. To the answerer either it was interpretted as a film where he featured the most, or he wanted to give an amusing answer.
Q: Something you wouldn't use if it was dirty
A: Toilet paper
Amusing and logical answer(?)
Q: A signer of the Declaration of Independence
A: Thomas Edison
Slip of the tongue, specifically noun substitution, ref 
Q: Something that comes in twelves
Could be logical interpretation but not something the questioner was intending(?)
Q: A sophisticated city.
Misinterpretation (or even slip of the ear) of city for destination.
Q: A kind of bear
A: Papa Bear
Recency effect(?) - had recently been reading or exposed to children's stories (?)
Q. Name a number you have to memorise
Misinterpretation of 'memorise' as 'favourite' or 'memorable'(?)
Q. Name something in the garden that's green
Context-specific to the answerer(?)
Q. Name something that flies that doesn't have an engine
A. A bicycle with wings
'Logical' and specific answer - but the questioner could have maybe clarified the question with a 'commonly known item'.
Or, recency effect - flugtag, ref .
Q. Name something you might be allergic to
'Alergic' -> 'don't like'(?)
Q. Name a famous bridge
A. The bridge over troubled waters
Interpreted as 'something well-known with bridge in it'(?)
Q. Name something you do in the bathroom
Specific to the answerer's context.
Q. Name an animal you might see at the zoo
A. A dog
Generics. Potential that the answerer has not interpreted the the question as 'generally seen and residing in the zoo'.
Q. Name a kind of ache
A. Fillet 'O' Fish (?)
Brain-freeze or 'slip of the ear'(?)
Q. Name a food that can be brown or white
Answerer framed the question as a food which could be presented as brown or white(?)
Q. Name a famous Scotsman
'Slip of the ear' -> 'a common nickname'(?)
Q. Name a non-living object with legs
Maybe thinking of a plant on a plant stand(?)
Q. Name a domestic animal
Misinterpretation of 'domestic'(?)
Q. Name a way of cooking fish
'way' misinterpreted as 'type'(?)
- Context - some answers are specific to the answerer and not the questioner. Example traps might be (1) Understanding and interpretation, (2) Word association problems or (3) Relating everything to ones own experience or circumstances.
- Recency effects, ref  - the interpretation associated with a word was used in a different context, giving a skewed answer. In testing this occasionally results in skewed emphasis of the risk determination - see tester framing problems in ref .
- Skipping and changing words in sentences - to actually hear a different question - sometimes grouped under 'slips of the ear'. In testing this might result in an incorrect solution application, similar to framing problems but can also be 'straightforward' slips that result in some faulty analysis - missing some key input parameter for example.
- Other framing effects can be caused by the previous question, previous answer or even some realisation that a previous answer was wrong/silly and so inducing more stress in the answerer.
- Stress can mean that sometimes when you're trying to react you don't actually listen to the whole message or question. This can be time pressure or other stresses. Be aware of this potential problem.
- Anchoring effects, ref  - focusing on a word and giving an association with that word (rather than focusing on the whole question). In testing this typically results in confirmatory testing.
- Generic statements can create confusion. These are generic statements as part of the answers - this is where the question can be confused between giving an example of a specific kind and categorizing the answer into a grouping. Opposite of the answerer-specific problem. More on this in another post...
- Don't rule out brain-freezes either - these can be multi-word substitution or paragrammatism, ref , which result in nonsense responses.
This is a good exercise and quite instructive for those working in software testing - it's a good illustration of how what might be seen as an obvious or simple answer can actually diverge from the expectations of the stakeholder or even customer.
Be alert for not just for confusing messages but also the potential for confusing answers. In this way you might know when to re-affirm your interpretation back to the stakeholder or customer.
* If you want to see the clips you can search youtube for "family fortunes answers" or "family feud answers" or "game show stupid answers".
** Lists compiled from
 Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is (Gause and Weinberg, Dorset House, 1990)
 Anchoring effects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring
 Recency effects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_position_effect
 Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean (Erard, Panteon, 2007)