ResearchED: Everybody Lies

This is a post about Gregory House. It about qualitative research and survey design.

One of the key phrases in the magnificent tv series starring Hugh Laurie is:

“Everybody Lies”

This is significant in terms of research.

I was at a Public Service conference last Christmas, the focus was on being “Digital by Default”. I was most interested in a company who had consulted for Liverpool City Council in the redesign of the council website. The most fascinating part was the conclusion that the company used eye tracking software and compared it to verbal feedback given in the same session.

People in their usability trials were giving lovely feedback verbally about the website, yet the metrics from the eye tracking software indicated that the trial designs had flaws and caused confusion. It turned out that the respondents were actually commenting on the nice young man and the cup of tea, rather the the actual website or that they didn’t want to offend the nice young man by being critical of the website.

Conclusion: Everybody Lies.

We see this in classrooms and schools all over the country.

Children establish communities of practice to “manage” their teacher and give them the answers they think the teacher wants.
Teachers and SLT play the collegiate, come up, with the idea the boss wants so we can all go home game.

So the entire process of establishing what people think is riddled with lies. Making survey design a complex and challenging task:

You can’t ask your staff to rate their competence in a subject, they will tell you what they think you want to hear. You can however ask the. To rate a series of statements about a subject in a particular order, if you subltly design those to be neutral, then it is possible to infer the real truth you wish to uncover.

It’s a tight rope. You have to be devious to access the truth, after that, you need to consider the ethics of lying to your subjects. That’s why the eye tracking software is so beautiful.


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