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Why we could all benefit from being a bit more playful

Qualitative research is most beneficial when it gets beyond what people think, to what they truly feel, and uncovers motivations and desires, including those which are private or may not even be consciously held.

As qualitative researchers, we were amongst the first to introduce ‘gamification’ into our work. And we have long used play as a way to gain deeper understanding of the instinctive ways consumers make decisions, in order to improve research outputs, and to avoid being misled by the ways consumers may post-rationalise complex decisions.

There are a number of levels that we aim to reach in order truly to understand consumers’ motivations, and how best their needs can be met.

The techniques that we use to get beyond the top levels of awareness add value to the process in two ways. They enhance the research experience for participants, and they bring greater richness and ‘truthfulness’ to the data for us.

Their use helps us to vary the pace, and to maintain interest throughout a session.

At their simplest level they are one of the tools we can use to bring out the views of quieter respondents, who may lack the confidence to participate fully in the discussion, but have a valuable contribution to make.

But they go beyond this. “Projective techniques provide verbal or visual stimuli which, through their indirection and concealed intent, encourage respondents to reveal their unconscious feelings and attitudes without being aware that they are doing so” (Dichter, 1960).

They help respondents to express themselves:

  • They encourage truthfulness. By disassociating themselves from the point they are making, and projecting their thoughts and behaviours onto others, respondents have permission to say the unsayable
  • They challenge participants to introspect in new ways eg by defending an opposing point of view
  • And they enable us to elicit unconscious feelings and motivations which may not otherwise be articulated

Allowing time to include projective approaches suited to your objectives can really add value to a project.

If you found this interesting, stay tuned! A future post will outline examples of techniques that I have found particularly beneficial, and how and when to use them