No spouses were harmed in this experiment #MRX


There are two kinds of annoying eaters: those who hate practically everything (that’s me) and those who like practically everything (that’s my SO). The problem with picky eaters is obvious – it’s nearly impossible to make meal that includes only things they like.

The problem with the other people is less obvious. No matter what you make, they like it. If you burn it, they like it. If you add no seasoning, they like it. If it looks like dirt and slime mixed nicely together, they like it. Which means that if you ask them what their favourite food is so you can make it for their birthday, they have no idea what to tell you. That‘s the problem.

Creamy brussel sprouts with peppers

To try and get around this problem, I used to ask about everything I made, “Do you like this?” Eventually, I realized that was a useless question. I got no variability with the answers. Everything was a yes. Everything was good, nothing was bad. Like I believe that. As if everything I cook is actually good. (Desserts yes, non-sugar foods no way!)

So I tried a different question. “On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate this.” Sadly, that well-designed question with decades of rigorous experimentation behind it also failed. Nearly everything I made was rated as a 7 or 8. Which we already know is inherently not valid.

But recently, with the gamification of surveys clearly in mind, I deliberately asked a different question. One that was designed to create an emotional responses. I asked, “If I never made this again, would you care?” (Try answering that question while thinking about asparagus, fudge, anchovies, and Twinkies.) And I started to get different answers. Differentiated answers. As in some foods would be missed if I never made them again while others would not be missed at all. I had found the holy grail of eliciting responses that better suited my research objective.

I know we’ve been hearing about the gamification of surveys a lot lately. I can’t say that I used a gamified survey, but a blatant rethink of my survey question surely helped solve a simple problem for me. Imagine how rethinking the questions on your surveys would better answer your important questions.

(n=1, ABC non-randomized design, No spouses were harmed while conducting the experiment.)

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