This month on the Internet a big debate erupted over a photo of a dress that created an optical illusion; some saw the dress as gold and white, whilst others saw it as blue and black. Literally overnight it went viral; being re-tweeted and blogged and shared worldwide, causing disagreement and debate wherever it went. It spawned multiple memes and scientific explanations for how people could see different things when looking at the same photo.
We at the HRW offices joined in with our own spirited ‘what colour do you see?’ discussion, but then we started to think deeper about what ‘#thedress’ was actually telling us about human behaviour and we realised there were some interesting parallels to how we think about healthcare market research.

1. People see things differently… But don’t know why. It seems like an obvious point to say that people have different perspectives, but it is well documented that everyone (HCPs and patients alike) has their own individual perception of the world around them that colours the way they react to stimuli. But what’s important here is that although there have been numerous articles that explain why some people see the dress differently to others this wasn’t a rationale that most of us would have known; we just saw it as we saw it and couldn’t imagine it any other way. We know that the same thing can happen in research; we all are subject to the introspection bias, which means that we are not always aware of the driving rationale for our behaviour and although we might try to give an honest answer it might not be 100% accurate. For example, if we asked you to recall your mother’s maiden name, and then asked why you know that, you might be able to give us a broad explanation but how confident would you be that the rationale that you gave us was accurate? That’s why at HRW we place significant importance on comparative analysis, identifying patterns, and reading between the lines to access the reality of what’s going on under the surface.

2. Things going viral are not always what’s most meaningful. Anyone who has used the Internet knows that a lot of what’s most shared can be ‘entertaining’ rather than important, but this is an important point when we consider the way we approach social media research. Although social media research can be an effective method of scene-setting or validating findings from primary research, on its own it can skew the relative importance of various factors that may be more common just because they are interesting or appropriate for public discussion rather than of greatest importance to the customer.

What colours do you see? We welcome your participation in this debate; To contribute or for more information about how we use science to access reality contact us here.

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