Designing Research to Understand How People Think: The Bridge that Connects Quantitative & Qualitative Research

In 2013, Research Design Review posted five articles that directly speak to common design considerations in quantitative and qualitative research that address theStone bridge basic goal of understanding how people think.  These common concerns, and the articles where they are discussed, include: using effective content analysis procedures to reveal underlying subjective connections for each respondent/participant (“Content Analysis & Navigating the Stream of Consciousness”); the importance of design approaches that target people’s stories (“‘Tell Me What Happened’ & Other Stories”); research designs that incorporate good listening techniques with appropriate, well-constructed questions (“Listening: A Lesson from New Coke”); utilizing qualitative research to examine the thinking that helps explain quantitative data (“Looking Under the Hood: What Survey Researchers Can Learn from Deceptive Product Reviews”); and the role of Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 (intuitive) and System 2 (cognitive) thinking framework in considering behavior in the marketplace (“Fast & Slow Thinking in Research Design”).

These five articles have been compiled into one pdf document that can be accessed here.  Anyone who has read this blog since its inception in 2009 knows that a recurring theme revolves around research design issues that impact how well (or not) researchers gain an understanding of how people think.  There is no reason to believe that the tradition won’t continue in 2014.

Listening: A Lesson from “New” Coke

In 2013, Susan Eliot posted a terrific piece on listening (a common theme on her blog The Listening Resource*) titled “Listening For Versus Collecting Data.”  In it, she talks about the power imbalance – and, I would add, the insensitive mindset – implied by the idea that researchers are “collecting data from subjects” compared to the more useful notion that we are new coke2listening “one human to another.”  Eliot goes on to cite Martin Buber and his distinction of I-Thou and I-It interactions or relationships between people, with Eliot stating “When we look upon the other person as a ‘thou’ (a unique, sentient human being) rather than an ‘it’ (a data repository), we approach the research with a humanistic perspective, one that is likely to net us rich and meaningful data.”

Extolling the virtues of listening seems almost trite (we all claim to “listen” in some shape or form) yet why is it so difficult?  It is difficult, not only among researchers where listening is (should be) a required skill but, among all of us where listening is a fundamental component of human interaction.

The October 18, 2013 NPR TED Radio Hour program “Haves and Have-Nots” presents two important examples on the importance of listening and, more particularly, the negative effects of not listening well.  The first is a TED talk given by Ernesto Sirolli titled “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!” where he tells the story of an ill-fated attempt to teach people in Zambia Read Full Text

Can You Hear Me Now? Listening in Qualitative Research

Somewhere back in school Carl RogersOn Becoming a Person was required reading.  Maybe because of the title – and my life-long goal to become “a person” – or maybe because there is something endearing about Carl Rogers himself, whatever the reason this is one of the few books I have held on to for these many years.  The binding of my paperback edition has fallen apart and only a rubber band keeps the pages bound in some sense of order.

Anyone familiar with Rogers knows that he is considered the father of client-centered therapy.  Rogers took a different approach to therapy from his colleagues of the day, one that was open, flexible, and empowered the client to determine his/her own therapeutic course.  This was a fairly radical approach at the time and even now there are those who dispute Rogers’ techniques.  Admittedly a client-centered session can be difficult to watch, as his interview in 1965 with Gloria illustrates.

The Rogers-Gloria interview is an example of Rogers’ method of using  long silences pierced by a few quiet words of encouragement, highlighting a key component to client-centered therapy –  listening.  Rogers believed that a true understanding of an individual, and the ability Read Full Text