Musings: Do we need new technology to understand emotions?

Dear Readers;

If you are involved in the business of market research no doubt you are inundated daily with a dazzling array of tools, techniques, platforms and choices for gathering insights into consumers needs, wants and behaviors.

So many options in fact that many of my research colleagues rarely interact directly, in face-to-face conversation, with the people from whom they are trying to learn. They predominantly rely on screen based research platforms. Of course those platforms have a place! But let’s not throw out common sense, and let’s remember that the folks we need to learn from are human beings, just like us, and not “research subjects.”

As human beings most of us are programmed to intuitively understand emotional responses. It was important for survival to hone decoding skills to gather critical information. The raised eyebrow, the lifted shoulders or downcast eyes, the sharp tone of voice, often conveys much more meaning than the actual words used.

As a researcher and a new grandparent what I find disheartening is that children are being handed screens in toddlerhood. What impact does this have long-term on the ability to look people in the eyes, to read and decode emotions? I’m not the only one concerned. There have been many scientific studies raising alarms when screen time and digital friendships are not balanced with in person socialization. Bruce Feiler’s excellent NY Times article notes a few of these studies. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/fashion/hey-kids-look-at-me-when-were-talking.html

Now linking back to the world of qualitative research, is the appeal of some of the shiny new toys like Facial Coding technology due to researchers’ feeling inadequate about trusting their instincts and natural abilities to read and interpret facial expressions and body language? And will the youngest researchers, those raised on screens, feel less comfortable in the world of empirical, in-person research without the support of “objective” technology interpreters?

Food for thought perhaps. Would you like to meet me “around the campfire” to discuss.?

And, if you want to test your own ability to decode expressions, follow this link!

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/well-quiz-the-mind-behind-the-eyes/?_r=0

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

908-237-2246, 908-399-9460

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