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Does Quantification In Market Research Lead To Disengagement?

Does Quantification In Market Research Lead To Disengagement?
Posted by Edward Appleton
Friday, May 3, 2013
GreenBook blog
Charting the Future of Market Research

Does Behavioral Economics deliver the missing piece to attain the “Holy Grail” of research: combining the insights of a qualitative survey with the robustness of a quantitative project?

Week 6 of the Dan Ariely/Duke University Behavioral Economics (BE) online course is about Emotions; one of the first reading assignments focuses on a phenomenon called “Psychic Numbing”.

A term originally coined in the 1960s, this refers to a cognitive process of disengagement, a numbing of feeling, induced by the use of numbers. It leads to apathy and inaction. To quote the authors:

“Numerical representations of human lives do not necessarily convey the importance of …. lives.”

My mind immediately flew to Quant. Research, Predictive Analytics and Big Data.

The actual article authored jointly by Paul Slovic, David Zionts, Andrew K. Woods, Ryan Goodman, and Derek Jinks – addresses the apathy often witnessed towards mass atrocity and shows how psychologically engagement falls off the moment we start to portray a problem simply in terms of numbers. We engage far more actively, process information more effectively, when confronted with individual stories and narratives. Presenting “numbers” results in a “blurring of individuals” (Annie Dillard) – a phenomenon that can begin with as few as 2 people. Scary.

(read more)


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