Trained moderators often incorporate projective techniques into their qualitative research to uncover participants’ hidden thoughts. Projective techniques originate in the field of psychology, along the lines of Rorschach ink blot and Thematic Apperception tests. Qualitative researchers have adapted these approaches for use in the market research field.
Projectives are questions or exercises designed to uncover people’s deeper feelings on a topic. They are purposely set up to ask key questions in an indirect way. They are not meant to replace top of mind responses to direct questions, but can provide insight not gleaned from traditional questioning. Projective techniques are used to obtain deep understanding of emotional needs, barriers and motivators.
To reveal a new level of insight into your participants, I’ve included three examples of projective techniques you can include in your next qualitative research study: Mindmap, Picture Sort and Deprivation.
Mindmap: This is a great exercise for kicking off a focus group. Each participant receives a mindmap with a word (or phrase) related to the topic in the center. Rather than asking directly what they like about a particular topic, ask participants to write down as many words and phrases as come to mind while they think about that topic. Be sure to add that this could include anything good or bad including their thoughts, feelings, senses, associations, impressions, images and preferences. This approach gathers a much broader range of responses and typically uncovers topics that would not have been discussed when just asking what they like about a particular topic.
Picture Sort: One technique we have found to be particularly effective is a spin-off of Thematic Apperception tests. Spread pictures on the table and ask each person to select a picture that best represents how they feel about ______ (insert the topic being discussed). Each participant then shares why they chose the image and how it represents how they feel about ______. The images provided are purposely abstract and could have different meanings. For example, someone might respond, “This is a picture of a bridge to nowhere, although to me it shows optimism. I see _____ organization as one that takes on challenges and works to be creative. They can easily turn this bridge to nowhere into a great opportunity.”
Deprivation: Another successful technique to understand how people really feel about something is to ask them to describe life without that brand, product or service. This can be as informal as asking participants to share how they might feel if they were deprived of that brand/product/service or you could ask them to write a eulogy for the particular brand, product or service. This is a fun exercise that encourages people to think outside the box, With a little prompting, perhaps even a eulogy sentence completion form, participants are easily able to describe how they would feel and what they would miss if that brand/product/service was no longer available.
For more projective techniques or assistance in implementing these methods, please reach out to us at Hardwick Research. We are always happy to help.