How To Avoid Focus Group Bias: Fibs, Half-Truths And Outright Lies
If you’ve been following this week’s investigation into avoiding focus group bias, then you know how leading questions and moderator neutrality both play an important role in generating the most honest, open and accurate focus group results possible.
Of course, even if your focus group questions are expertly formulated and presented in a completely objective manner by your moderator, there are a number of other opportunities for focus group bias that must be carefully monitored and managed. We’ve compiled the top 5 for you here:
The Sponsor Bias -- If your focus group respondents are aware of who is sponsoring your marketing research project, they may be inclined to temper their true opinions in response. If they have negative feelings, those feelings may automatically influence their answers negatively. Similarly, if they have positive feelings for the sponsor, they may be inclined to only provide responses that portray the sponsor in a positive light. Either way, the outcome is less than objective results. For this reason, it’s important to conceal the name of a study’s sponsor whenever possible.
The Consistency Bias -- Without intending to lie or mislead the moderator, many respondents will edit their answers over the course of a focus group session based on previous answers that may or may not have been completely accurate or truthful. Of course, as anyone who has ever tried to tell an extended lie knows: maintaining consistency isn’t easy. If an answer does not seem consistent with previous responses, it’s important to ask the respondent to expand on or clarify their answers.
The Domination Bias -- If left unchecked, dominant respondents intent on monopolizing a focus group conversation with their viewpoints and opinions can quickly sway the answers of others. Be sure to engage every member of your focus group and encourage equal participation from all members in order to avoid allowing one participant’s responses to influence the entire group.
The Bad Mood Bias -- The mood of your respondents will naturally affect the answers they provide. If a focus group participant is angry, he or she may offer consistently negative or hostile responses. Similarly, if a respondent is depressed or distracted, that state of mind may translate into short, terse responses. Try to gauge the mood of your group, make note of its influence and respond by drawing out reticent respondents or defusing group tension with a change in approach.
The Social Acceptance Bias -- Human beings are naturally social and are therefore inclined to seek the acceptance of their peers. When it comes to focus group responses, this tendency can have a significant impact on data results. Focus group participants are naturally inclined to offer socially acceptable responses that may be false or only partially true. This phenomenon is especially prominent when dealing with sensitive subjects that participants would rather not talk about. In order to mitigate the effects of the social acceptance bias, it’s important to build trust among all members of your respondent group and try to overcome individual insecurities. When dealing with socially sensitive topics, try using indirect questions and projective techniques.
For more information on how to avoid and minimize focus group bias, click on the button below to schedule a consultation with one of the experts at Focus Pointe Global.
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