Play the loaded dice smartly; online market research is in your hands
by Patricio Pagani, Infotools
How does question framing impact market research? A look at opt-in versus opt-out.
From where I was, it looked like a giant rock … only it was perfectly shaped and shiny. It bounced and bounced, and I thought it was going to hit me.
“Six … I win again!” shouted my brother. I was only three years old and didn’t understand the concept of a loaded dice.
Many summers later, after becoming a market researcher, I came to realize that most people do not understand the concept of ‘loaded dice’ either. Even policy makers don’t understand it fully … and they need to!
Dan Ariely, professor of Behavioural Economics, presented this chart at a research conference I attended earlier this year:
Any idea what it shows? Have a guess! What makes Denmark similar to the Netherlands and Germany, but completely opposite to Sweden? Uhm … did you get it?
Well, unless you’ve heard Dan, you probably will never guess that we are talking about the percentage of the population that have agreed to donate their organs when they pass away. You can speculate away: is it religion or culture? What determines the level of organ donations in a country?
I’ll give you a hint … the only difference is the way the question was framed.
The countries represented in gold framed their question as ‘opt-in’ (e.g. check the box if you want to donate your organs). The countries in blue framed their question as ‘opt-out’ (e.g. check the box if you do not want to donate your organs).
Can you see where we are going? In the blue countries, the policy makers - not the people - made the decision that everyone should donate their organs. The question is why policy makers decided against it (by framing the question as opt-in). Did they not know that they were playing with ‘loaded dice’?
Policy makers, do you want people to join your retirement scheme? Frame your question as an opt-out and you will have over 90% of the population in the system.
Now, how does question framing impact market research? Coincidentally, from May this year, the European Union e-privacy directive requires all EU website owners to obtain consent (opt-in), before implementing cookies or capturing any online visitor information. ESOMAR just launched a practical guide to help researchers comply with the new law.
How do you think this is going to affect our industry’s ability to do online market research? According to Dan Ariely and the framing effect, it will make it very, very hard.
At the time of going to press, the UK’s ICO (Information Commissioners Office) had made these significant last-minute relaxations in its guidance regarding changes to the new EU cookie law. At the top of their website you will find the new style of opt-in cookies.
Here is the original EU e-privacy directive.
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