On January 20, we wrapped up the 2017 Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) annual conference, held at the J.W. Marriott L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The conference theme this year was The Power of Perspective.
Perspective aids empathy – a trait that we, as qualitative research consultants, rely on heavily in conducting our research. At this year’s conference, a variety of perspectives were represented at the conference. We heard from:
- experts on current techniques and tools that draw from neuroscience and how the brain works,
- seasoned researchers who are fusing traditional research tools with new approaches in research, and
- speakers drawing upon various interdisciplinary approaches – the keynote speaker (John Seigel Boettner, of the Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press) – and the plenary session speaker (Benjamin Mathes), whose presentation on Radical Listening showed how he turned a simple moment into a worldwide listening project.
One breakout session was particularly salient. Presenter James Forr of the Pittsburgh-based company Olson Zaltman, explained how particular errors in memory (Transience, Suggestibility, Bias, and Misattribution) can impact our role as researchers. Mr. Forr’s presentation – titled “Memory’s Murky Mysteries” – pulled from a couple of books (The Seven Sins of Memory, by Daniel L. Schacter, and Memory 101, by James M. Lampinen and Denise R. Beike).
Mr. Forr illustrated the fluid, transient, and often unreliable nature of memory in an exercise where audience members were asked to draw the Apple logo from memory – an image all of us had seen thousands of times over the past decade or longer. When the actual logo was revealed on the screen afterward, it turned out that almost no one got it precisely accurate, myself included.
One “memory sin” in particular stood out: the sin of Transience (that our brains tend to mix up details as time passes, or “details mix as the clock ticks”). Knowing that people are more likely to consider an overall experience to be negative if it ended badly or painfully than if it ended happily (or not painfully), we as Qualitative Researchers must factor this knowledge in when it comes to interpreting a consumer’s interaction with a product, or a user’s experience with a website.
Applied to website usability, for instance, this finding translates to mean that a “failed” task, or a task that consistently frustrates the user, will impact that user’s overall impression of (and likelihood to return to) that particular website, and may extend to the brand image overall, than had the user experienced an easy resolution of the task.
This finding may seem obvious in its impact on the need to conduct user testing with every consumer touchpoint for your brand. But given how powerful a role memory plays within the context of the User Experience, its impact cannot be overstated.
This presentation, among many others, made the 2017 QRCA annual conference not only inspiring and insightful but (hotel fire alarms and torrential downpours notwithstanding) also a great way to reconnect with colleagues.
We are already looking forward to the 2018 conference.