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The Best Moderators? A 3rd Grade Teacher! – Part 2

Earlier this month, we wrote about the importance of applying the principles of Brain Science to qualitative research.  The education and psychology profession have conducted decades of research on how the brain works, how to engage people, and motivate change.  Now, many of these theories are proven as imaging technologies reveal how the brain changes and responds during experiments.

In total, there are 8 lessons from Brain Science that all moderators should know.  The first four can be found in the previous blog posting.

These remaining four could have a big impact on the success of your qualitative research.

#5 Emotion Trumps Everything

One thing that we know with absolute certainty is that just about every thought, action, and decision we make is impacted by the part of the brain that processes emotions.  Science has proven that we are largely irrational and emotional creatures.  Traditional focus groups are a rational process.  The holy grail in today’s marketing is understanding emotional drivers and what motivates people to act.  I’m sorry to report that the current format of a stranger asking questions to a group of strangers while other strangers observe them will never, ever achieve this outcome.  Fortunately, there is a solution worth considering.

#6 Writing Matters

Science has proven that the physical act of writing with a pen or pencil increases brain processing and improves recall.  The act of typing engages the brain, but not as effectively as writing.  Swiping and clicking on a smartphone does not have the same effect.  When you can, qualitative research participants should write before, during, and after an engagement.  You’d be amazed at the results.

#7 Movement

Our bodies and brains were made to move.  Sitting for 2 hours does little to keep a person engaged.  During focus groups, for example, we advocate activities that get people on their feet.  If the session requires a lot of sitting, ask participants to stand up and change seats midway through.  The energy and engagement will change instantly.

#8 Chunking

Our attention span is about 10 minutes.  After that, our attention starts to wane.  In traditional focus groups, you can see this happening.  At any given point in time, only a handful of participants are completely dialed in.  As the conversation progresses, different people helicopter in and out.  This has implications on how we manage qualitative engagements.  Moderators are trained to structure topic guides into logical sections based on learning objectives.  While still important, discussion guides should really be built with a purposeful intervention every 10 minutes to change the energy in the room.

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