The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Emotional highs and lows

Neuroscience had been a bit of a mystery to our author until this Spark session, which revealed that qual researchers are well placed to explore the 'so what' from the data it generates.

As qualitative researchers, we like to think we know an awful lot about how people think and today, Behavioural Science is an essential bit of our research toolkit. Neuroscience was, however, until recently, unchartered territory for me.

I knew it focused on the processes of the brain and therefore 'the bit before behaviour', but I was unclear how to harness it and even less clear about its role in tackling challenges faced by my clients.

The Spark session delivered by Neurostrata's Thom Noble and Jeremy Thorpe-Woods thoroughly demystified this field and its relevance to us. Jeremy kicked off with a primer on cognitive science, giving even a room full of seasoned behavioural experts a whole range of new ideas to chew on and highlighting the central role that the emotional centres of the brain play in driving decision making.

Thom then laid down the research challenge; traditional qual research methods simply can't isolate our non-conscious thought. Exercises such as Ekman faces or asking for a 'gut feel' may dial down a heavily System 2 response but they aren't implicit, and potentially miss out on an estimated 98% of nonconscious human thought.

So, what are the opportunities? With EEG scans we can map emotional heights of an experience and understand what elements to dial up, e.g. when opening a can of coke, is it the hiss of the can or the first sip that is most engaging?

Through psychometric testing we can uncover less conscious associations with brands, visual comms and even long-form copy. There are also opportunities for the growing area of voice activation in helping us determine how well voices map against key brand attributes.

Thom and Jeremy's overarching message was that as experts in human behaviour, we are really well-placed to tease out the 'so what' behind the wealth of data that neuro techniques generate. While not every project will be a fit for neurosciencedriven approaches, there's a lot of potential for it to elevate our thinking.

 

Kate Jones
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