We recently read a fascinating article by Michaela Mora titled “10 Cognitive Biases You Shouldn’t Ignore in Research”. The article is relevant and informative for the research industry as Mora breaks down the top biases she believes are the most likely to affect market research and how to best avoid them.
Of the ten, there were three that stood out to us as particularly common, but completely preventable by employing the skills of a trained researcher / moderator who knows how to spot biases and modify the interview methodology to best eliminate them.
1) Social Desirability Bias
This is the tendency respondents have to over-report socially desirable behaviours and in turn under report socially undesirable ones. If the questions are asked in a way in which respondents feel their answers are being judged, they may not necessarily answer truthfully; instead giving what they think is the most socially acceptable answer. A well written discussion guide and non-judgmental demeanor of the moderator is the trick to avoiding this one.
2) Framing Effect
Different wording of the same question can easily produce two completely different answers. A trained researcher will take this into account while planning the interview methodology and during the research.
3) Empathy Gap
In a research setting respondents can have a difficult time answering accurately because they are removed from the situations they are discussing. Because of this they will often provide over / under overstatements. To avoid this, researchers need to pose the questions in a way that respondents can visualize themselves in the situation and give more accurate answers.
These biases can be quite difficult to spot to an untrained person and may manifest in each example of qualitative research (in-person and online focus groups, in-person and telephone one-on-one interviews, ethnography, etc…) In our experience, the most accurate information and results will come from research using professional trained researchers / moderators.