Part 1: Who are we and why are we doing this?

Recall and memory. Tricky things. Especially for market researchers. The market research industry has traditionally relied upon recall- and memory-based methods for gathering feedback and insights. But there’s a ton of evidence out there that calls into question our ability to accurately remember and recall our feelings and experiences. So, why do market researchers still lean so heavily on recall and memory? We thought that was a great question to explore. And we thought there’d be an audience in the market research community that would be interested in exploring that question with us.

So, we’ve launched an investigation to explore and expose the issues around memory and recall and its impact on market research. In addition, we’re also interested in exploring what can be done about this; what alternative methods are out there that can help mitigate recall and memory bias and are they working? For this investigation, we’ve recruited a top-shelf team of investigators. So, for our first post, we’d like to introduce you to our team and let them tell you in their own words why they’ve decided to join us in this investigation.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, PhD. | Advisor and Panelist

Bio Facts:

  • Distinguished professor at University of California, Irvine
  • Founding Director of UC Irvine’s Center for Psychology and Law
  • TED Speaker (“How reliable is your memory?”)
  • Authority on memory manipulation; scholar and author

“I’ve been studying memory for decades and have learned a lot about memory distortion. When I meet someone on a flight and tell them what I do, they want to tell me about a relative that has Alzheimer’s or something similar but then I tell them that I don’t actually study forgetting. I study how people remember things that didn’t happen and how memory can be distorted or contaminated by exposure to new information. Although I’ve published many papers relying on recall, I know that it is easily contaminated by external or internal sources. So, the idea that you could find a way to get into a person’s mind while they are processing the information in the moment—not having to come back to them later and ask them to recall what they saw or why they made that choice or preferred that option—could be so valuable. I am just experimenting with this idea in my academic research now and joining this group will help facilitate that experimentation.”

Andrew Jeavons | Advisor and Panelist

Bio Facts:

  • Currently develops affordable advanced text analytic tools
  • Formerly CEO of Survey Analytics
  • Advisor to Squark Surveys and Research Through Gaming
  • Noted writer, speaker and thought leader

“In my own personal experiences, I’ve seen many questionnaires and very often I would read the questions and realize I couldn’t accurately answer them. As an undergrad and a psychology major, I was given a book to read by Alexander Luria called ‘The Mind of the Mnemonist’ about a man who remembered everything. This man literally couldn’t forget and his life became a mess because we can’t function properly without being able to forget. So, as market researchers we need to be cognizant that memory isn’t what we think it is. Our memories get rewritten all the time.”

Elizabeth Merrick | Advisor and Panelist

Bio Facts:

  • Head of Customer Insights Analytics at Nest
  • Formerly Senior Manager of Customer Insights at HSN
  • Sat on the Board of Directors for the Marketing Research Association
  • Holds Master’s Degree in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern and M.B.A. from University of Florida

“Attribution in business is incredibly important. I need to know where my dollars are coming from and which marketing initiatives and spends are driving them. Many of the mechanisms we have in place to determine this are reliant on memory. When you start digging into how customers respond to questionnaires and surveys, you start seeing how wrong customers can be, which makes you realize how misappropriated your marketing dollars can be. I see that flawed memory, and the decisions we as marketers make based on it, can have a huge business impact—on both the top and bottom line.”

David Paull | Advisor and Panel Moderator

Bio Facts:

  • Founder and CEO of Dialsmith
  • Leads the continued development of technologies and services for in-the-moment data collection and research
  • Market research industry presenter and journal author

“At Dialsmith, we work with clients every day to help them capture in-the-moment insights. So, from an anecdotal standpoint, we see, in every project we do, the value of these insights and the benefits of being able to add that piece of the puzzle. But we’ve always been curious to step out of our Dialsmith world and see if we can find other real world examples that demonstrate the limitations of recall- and memory-based research methods and we thought that approaching this issue from the academic side in addition to the market research side would yield some interesting outcomes.”

Now that you’ve met the team and our journey to expose the impact of recall and memory bias is officially underway, what’s next? Following up on today’s post, we’ll be rolling out a series of blog posts–a new one every two weeks–where our team examines a different angle to this issue.  For our next post, the team will dissect exactly how recall and memory bias can steer us wrong. So, stay tuned.

By David Paull, Founder & CEO, Dialsmith