Here at SimpleUsability, we find people fascinating. The psychology, the drivers and motivations behind our everyday consumer and online decisions is what we strive to discover for our clients. But we’re also extremely aware of the complexity of human behaviour, and understand the challenges it poses to researchers.
We know behaviour
We know that attitudes and intentions (such as those gathered in surveys or focus groups) rarely correlate with actual behaviour, this is the ‘say/do’ gap that is too often ignored by the research industry. We’re not content with relying on one-dimensional tools, which is why our behavioural research methods are all about embracing these challenges and going deeper, researching smarter.
Human cognition has many limits and biases that can trip up research;
- When recalling past behaviour, even very recent, we are more likely to emphasise the first thing we did and the last thing we did (called a primacy and recency effect).
- We lack introspection into the granular events that give rise to a bigger decision.
- We’re prone to social desirability influences.
- We can convincingly confabulate – unknowingly fabricate a false analysis when we have limited insight into why we did something.
- We like to be seen as coherent and reasoned but are typically emotional and irrational.
In short, the limits of our perception and memory make us poor judges of our own behaviour. This is why we use a Cued Retrospective Recall methodology with Eye Tracking.
Our methodology is different
Retrospective recall is where an interviewer asks a respondent to recall a past event (such as checking out on a website) and to provide insight into their thoughts, emotions and motivations or strategies at that moment in time. The key difference between this and other research methods is that the respondent is assisted with their limited introspection and memory by being shown cues.
A cue might be a picture or video playback of past behaviour. Visual cues are particularly powerful prompts for human memory, more so than asking someone to think back to a past event, they meaningfully put the subject ‘back in the moment’. They provide irrefutable evidence of what a participant actually did, allowing more accurate recall of thoughts and motivations that eradicate any fabricated memories.
At SimpleUsability we’ve found that one of the most powerful cues available to our research is Eye Tracking.
Why eye tracking?
Eye tracking footage, when retrospectively played back to the user, behaves in an extremely powerful and unique way. It acts as an incredibly strong cue to memory (hence ‘cued retrospective recall’). Users effectively watch their own eye movements, behaviour, and decision making played back to them in detail. The playback of eye movements specifically, goes well beyond a gentle reminder; it allows users to recall semi-subconscious thoughts and motivations that they were experiencing at the time. It allows them to verbalise these to us retrospectively, more fully and accurately than would be possible relying on memory alone.
We vehemently believe our cued retrospective recall methodology (in conjunction with our first class recruitment practices) has multiple benefits;
- Unlike a concurrent think aloudmethodology (CTA), participants are left alone to browse/interact naturally, free of intrusive questioning that disrupts the behaviour under investigation.
- Users don’t need to rely on their memories to recall their actions, the footage is such powerful evidence of what they did that mental resources are freed to recall the threads of thought and emotion they were experiencing.
- The eye tracking reveals to participants far more detail about what they did than they would otherwise remember. It acts as a reminder of forgotten actions that they would be unlikely to recall and analyse independently.
- In the face of the eye tracking footage it is much less likely that participants will produce a fabricated response because the evidence is right there in front of them.
- The footage evidence and gentle exploratory questioning de-stresses the research experience for the participant, the stimulus is the focus, not them, helping to quell social desirability effects.
Limiting inference in analysis
In analysing eye tracking outputs, experience has taught us that heatmaps alone are not enough. A ‘hotspot’ could be due to interest/engagement or equally confusion! You need the ‘Why’s’ as well as the ‘What’s’.
Rather than inferring participants’ motivations from quantitative metrics alone, we combine this data with the qualitative outputs from our post task retrospective interview. It is a core aspect of our approach that we fully integrate these two data sources. Our sessions provide both sources in one. Even with larger scale quantitative studies (e.g. advertising) you will always gain additional qualitative insights as a by-product of how we run our sessions, meaning your research spend goes further.
Cued Retrospective Recall in any setting
We’ve found cued retrospective recall to be an extremely flexible methodology, performing equally well in in-depth website usability evaluations as well as advertising, print, packaging, in-store journeys and mobile research paradigms. The list of possible applications goes on and we’re constantly innovating and finding new ways in which a cued retrospective recall methodology adds value.
Learn more about how we use technology as an enabler to complement our core methodology.
Learn more about why we take participant recruitment so seriously.