Posted by Dr Charles Nduka.

An emotional response to market research

This is the first part in a three part series of blog posts focussing on the latest trend in Market Research.

Emotional reaction is a necessary part of determining whether something is good, bad, mediocre, outstanding, or downright horrible. But how do we measure this accurately?

As human beings, one of the key things that sets us apart from other animals is our broad range of emotions. Our responses affect how we feel about (and remember) a person, place or product – often without us even realising. Emotions are what drives decisions. From buying a new house to selecting who to vote for in an election, they are often the sole reason for the choices we make. Emotional response is therefore very important in market research, as by accurately assessing the emotions that are being felt, you can in turn determine how the world perceives your product. This can mean the difference between it being a sell-out success or a total flop.

Despite the significance of emotional response, it is hard to measure for several reasons. Firstly, asking someone their opinion can be subject to bias – people may change what they really think of a product so as not to offend anyone, or vice versa. Secondly, cognitive functions such as memory are flawed. Market researchers are acutely aware of the issueof memory recall and use a range of tactics to elicit a response from their audience, however the fact remains that short-term memories are easily forgotten, meaning that enquiring about someone’s emotions towards an experience doesn’t always produce accurate results. Psychologist Daniel Kahnemann  described in book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” how the “peak-end effect” influences how we recall experiences. We all overly biased to recall the most extreme part of an experience as well as how the experience ends. So using questionnaires to assess emotional responses can lack the depth needed to capture a range of feelings and our recall will bias results. This is a huge flaw to current market research; we know that emotions are key to deciding if something is enjoyable, but we can’t capture or record these emotions accurately.

What is the solution to this problem? It all lies in the face. Despite some people trying hard to not let their feelings show, our expressions often give away our emotions. You might try to supress a smile, frown or state of shock, but the muscles in your face will still be activated, indicating how you truly feel. This eradicates the need to rely on memory, avoids personal bias, and can show a wider range of feelings than ‘happy’ or ‘sad’.

Emteq is passionate about understanding human emotions through facial expression. We understand that emotional response is crucial for market research, and work to capture this as accurately as possible. 

In part 2: The Reality of Virtual Market Research