My name is Annie and I’m a market research methodologist. What does that mean you ask? Well, it means I pay more attention to the research design of a project than the actual product being researched. I didn’t realize until recently how it impacts the way I perceive the world around me but here are a few examples that just might explain.
Actual message: There is currently a nutrition supplement commercial on TV that proudly proclaims “Every drop has Vitamin D.”
What they’re saying: If you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D, you can use our product to compensate.
What I process: Jeez, this soda cracker in my hand also contains Vitamin D. Doesn’t the nature of the universe dictate that every ingestible product has vitamin D? Isn’t the issue how much vitamin D and whether that amount is sufficient to over-come my lack of Vitamin D? Get back to me when you can quantify what you intend to give me and what I actually need.
Actual message: In a laboratory study with 34 mice, excess doses of sugar were found to cause severe and untreatable cancer.
What they’re saying: Stop eating so much sugar or it’ll kill you.
What I process: n=34? What kind of statistical power is that? You can’t conclude anything from that other than you need to finish up your exploratory research and conduct some confirmatory research on humans. Get back to me when n=300 humans.
Actual Message: In a poll of 300 Americans, Obama leads in voting intentions with 49% favouring him and 45% favouring Romney (+/- 5.6%, CI=95).
What they’re saying: Obama is winning.
What I process: Plus or minus 5.6%? In other words, 49% equals 45%. There is no winner here! Why are you telling people there is? Why are you misleading everyone? Tell me someone is leading when your sample size is large enough to make those numbers significantly different.
Actual message: This pie chart indicates that 29% of people die from cardiovascular death while 23% of people die from infectious or parasitic disease.
What they’re saying: Cardiovascular and infectious disease are major causes of death.
What I process: How are you unable to see that 29 + 23 does not add up to 100? How do you not know that pie chart data needs to add up to 100%? Is this why people have such trouble understanding the news? Because it’s not presented properly?
So now I’m curious. Are your blinders on the research method or on the research conclusions?