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Beyond the approach

The science behind the research.

On Metaphor Elicitation

Metaphor Elicitation was launched into the world with a simple premise — that people think in images, not words.

The technique leverages this reality, using metaphoric images and techniques from the worlds of neuroscience and psychology to uncover how people really think and feel.

The why behind the what

Metaphor Elicitation is a deeply powerful qualitative approach, developed at Harvard, and perfected in the Corporate Research Space.

Using participant-sourced imagery, the approach is designed to look into not only what people think, but why they think and feel as they do.

Corporate America uses this method to make billion-dollar decisions and the method has been used to launch some of the biggest brands today.

The insights that come from this approach are like none other.

man walking up escalator + bars with shadow

The power of deep listening

In traditional focus groups, participants speak for an average 3-10 mins total, sharing whatever thoughts they feel comfortable sharing publicly and are aware of, consciously.

With large-scale surveys, researchers get off-the-cuff responses to closed-ended questions for at most 10 minutes.

In Metaphor Elicitation, participants are asked beforehand to spend several hours gathering images that resonate with them. Trained interviewers then met with them for up to two hours for an open-ended discussion on their thoughts and beliefs, in what often feels like a therapy session. Then, hundreds of hours are spent analyzing what participants have shared.

What this process does is unearth the raw, unvarnished truth – what people truly think and feel.

The insights that come from this approach are like none other.

On Segmentation

Segments are a chosen portion of individuals that represent a larger group of people and from whom insights can be extrapolated out over that larger group of people.

Segments can be chosen based on socio demographic variables, on behavioral measures, and even on values and attitudes, or a combination of these variables.

Segments must be focused enough to be manageable, but broad enough to be useful.

For example, studying “the American voter” and having a single segment of American voters would be very manageable, but not nearly broad enough to be useful, as “the American voter” encompasses multiple different and distinct segments under that heading.

man and woman discussing research

The science of segmentation

Choosing the right people to research is a critical step in the research process. Done in careful partnership with a skilled recruiter, the client team and research team, a sample is selected using a mutually developed screener that includes populations of interest.

Samples may include populations in order to be representative, but not necessarily represent a segment. For example, a segment may be “people who voted for X candidate.” Within that sample, a mix of people from different backgrounds – racial, gender, income levels, education levels — would be included – but you would not be able to take the findings from say, only the women and say, this finding is representative of all women. A sample is only representative if the number of people within that sample is sufficient.

The science behind our sample

Research on metaphoric interviews’ ability to surface key constructs indicated that a sample size of 7-12 per segment was sufficient to achieve as many constructs as could be surfaced. In other words, once you conduct in-depth interviews with 7-12 individuals who are members of a given segment, you have roughly the same information that you would have after interviewing all the people in that segment.

graph - number of participants required to provide all key constructs

The science behind our sample (cont.)

Furthermore, in terms of ideas surfaced, after about 8-9 focus groups, as many or more constructs are surfaced through one-on-one interviews, and are done so in a less inhibited way.

graph - number of respondents/groups