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Watch This! Three Examples of The Power of Interactional Research

May 15, 2011

Doctor and patient in "mock interview"

Qualitative Research and The Rashomon Effect

In the classic tale of Rashomon, witnesses to a murder give different accounts of the same witnessed event.  Each witness tells the details of the story in ways that protect them, or make them look better.  The same phenomenon happens in qualitative research.  In respondents’ self reports, they may forget things, gloss over what they don’t want to remember, try  to make themselves look good to the moderator, or otherwise omit, revise, or distort what really happens.

Some of the distortions become apparent when the different versions don’t match.  What really happens?  What if we could be a fly on the wall during the event?

Role Play and Other Observational Techniques

Instead of asking respondents what they do in certain situations, consider observing them “live”, or having them engage in a role play scenario.  Here are three examples of how that method led to greater insight and suggestions for marketing.

  • Buyers and Sellers:  In one study, we watched a customer and buyer interact in transacting a sale.  Next we debriefed the buyer and seller, asking their reactions to the event, why they reacted as they did, buyer/seller satisfaction with the outcome, and the buyer’s likelihood of returning to the store.  Based on this information, the retailer was able to enhance elements of the sales training techniques.
  • Doctors and Patients:  A “mock” doctor/patient interview was conducted among sufferers who would be likely candidates for a particular prescription medication.  Both doctor and patient were blinded as to the purpose of the study.   The patient described her medical history same as she normally would. The doctor  took notes and asked questions, as usual, and made a recommendation or gave a prescription at the end.   The interaction and later debrief sessions showed that doctors did not always prescribe the target medication and/or provided inaccurate information—leading the manufacturer  to revise their detail aids and other communications to doctors and patients alike.
  • Husbands and Wives:  Financial decision-making, buying cars, and buying diamonds, are among the areas explored among husbands and wives, all of which revealed surprising insights that led to more successful marketing and copy communication efforts.

Don’t discount the value of observing interactions as well as hearing about them.   As touched on in these three examples,  conducting role play and live simulations of consumer behavior can not only verify findings but uncover new insights as well.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Roosmalawati Rusman permalink
    May 30, 2011 6:21 pm

    I used this technique several years ago with my colleague DR Terry Hull in our research “Mortality in Lombok” and published in “they Simply Die”; It was interesting!

  2. September 19, 2011 10:48 am

    We have observed interactions between patients and pharmacists (chemists in India), and interacted with married couples (real estate), families (media, consumer electronics), mom and kids (food, education, beauty products). The doctor patient interaction is very novel. Am curious – how did we get the doctor to participate in the interview? We have noted that they are only best in one on one interactions. Even focus groups with doctors have been very tough to recruit and tougher still to keep them engaged and present. We are going to try the doctor-patient interaction. Sounds very interesting and promising. Thanks!

    • September 19, 2011 1:48 pm

      Hi, Deepa: Glad you found the doctor/patient interaction research interesting. The way we recruit doctors for the research is to let them know up front that it will be a “mock” doctor visit, the purpose of which is to learn more about what transpires during the visit. That seems to get their interest; we have no more trouble recruiting them for these one-on-ones than for other types of research.

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