10 reasons why you don’t know why you do what you do #MRX

Ponder this list for a moment…

  1. Social desirability: Some people tend to answer questions in a way that makes them look good to other people. “I truly believe that men and women are equal even though I’ve never given a raise to nor promoted any women who’ve worked for me.”
  2. Order effects: Items that are earlier in a list get chosen and remembered more often than those later in listJust Shocking!. Because this item is second in a list of ten, chances are you will be more likely to remember this bias.
  3. Interviewer effect: The demographic and psychographic characteristics of an interviewer affect the responses given by an interviewee. “It doesn’t matter that we’re both women, I would have still would have told a man that women are smarter.”
  4. Acquiescence bias: Someone who tends to answer a question with agreement regardless of what the question is. “Of course I agree with you that I shouldn’t be paid for working overtime.”
  5. Recall bias: The way we answer a question is affected by our memory of an event. “I don’t remember hearing anything about a product recall so it couldn’t have been a big deal.
  6. Optimism bias: People believe they are less likely to experience a negative event than other people are. “I won’t get sick from smoking even though most people who smoke end up with some smoking related illness.”
  7. Cognitive dissonance: In order to feel better about themselves, people find a logical reason for their negative actions. “I had to cut that guy off in traffic or the receipts on my dashboard would have flown all over the place.”
  8. Anchoring: People often rely heavily on a single trait when making decisions. “That guy is just a stupid idiot. His forget to set his alarm so obviously he can’t do anything right.”
  9. Self-serving bias: People claim more responsibility for the good that happen to themselves than the bad things. “I worked really hard for my raise but all those problems with my work are because my colleague screwed up my filing system.”
  10. Dunning Kruger effect: People who are lacking in a skill overestimate their own skill in that area. “I took an introductory statistics course in my undergrad so I could easily do that factor analysis.”

Clearly, people’s opinions are affected by myriad unconscious effects that prevent them from accessing true answers. Now tell me, if we’ve been teaching and learning about response biases in school and we learn oh so many more on the job as market researchers, why do we ask research participants to verbalize responses to the following questions:

  • Why did you buy Brand A?
  • Why did you choose red over blue?
  • Why did you use the $1 coupon for the $3 item but not the $2 coupon for the $4 dollar item?

Why? Why oh why?

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