Apr 7, 2009

Two is company, three is …?

A while ago I got thinking about the number three. It’s recurring occurrence in myths and symbols.

Why do/es

  • The genie grant you three wishes?
  • A winner’s podium have three places?
  • Hinduism and Christianity both have a holy trinity?
  • Japanese mythology have three monkeys?
  • Freud talk about three ego states – id, ego and super ego?
  • Fairytales have three little pigs, Goldie locks and the three bears?
  • And time get divided into three: past, present and future?

When I turned my attention to the television – I came across brands that promised three benefits. A new shampoo brand that mentions three benefits - Nourishment, Protection and Hydration.

Aqua Fresh toothpaste with its iconic three stripes signifying protection, cavity fighting and fresh breath

Tea brands that played around with strength, colour and aroma highlighting one or the other.

Of course there are products with fewer or more benefits though I have deliberately cited examples with 3 to try and see if there is any more meaning to it. Do they talk about three just because one is too little and two still not good enough? By that logic it could be 4 or 12 or any number of benefits that people could remember.

Then I realised: Three is the smallest number of co-ordinates required to enclose a geometrical space.

Two straight lines cannot enclose any space!

In this context therefore three = solid, real, substantial, complete.

In another context three represents the ‘middle ground’ between the binary extremes of black and white, of good and bad.

Life is not always about the extremes.

We are not happy with things that just have do-good benefits; we also want those products to make us feel-good. For instance, people had the option of a) having staple home cooked food that one did not always enjoy and b) feasting on the more alluring street / junk food that was not good for us and then there was c) Maggie noodle that gave people the third option – Taste Bhi Health Bhi. Similarly we understood cleanliness as being good and dirt as bad – again two extremes – until Surf Excel appeared on the scene occupying the middle ground by positioning Dirt as good.

In life we cannot always exclude the existence of a “grey “area - a 3rd option. Three then = balance, realism, the in between space.

So coming back to the question I started with – what do you equate three to?

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Cross-posted on Chlog


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Hannah said...

Even in qualitative research we validate research findings through TRIangulation!

SusanA said...

Very interesting analysis, I think you're on to something with this.

Reshma Anand said...

Susan - what do you associate 3 with?

Hanna - yes even in research whether we use 2 or 3 or more different approaches it is referred to as TRIangulation - it originated from navigators trying to find the location of one point with reference to two others. Though due to its usage TRIangulation to me stands for 'completeness' of a research method.

Tessa - thanks :) keep coming back

cynduja said...

this is one of your sexiest posts...wow!