Caution when using graphics and multimedia

Graphic and multimedia elements (eg. images, graphs, videos, animations) can have unforeseen effects.

One example: we can ask respondents to sort countries according to a certain criterion (eg. how do they know them, have they visited them, would they live in them, would they cheer for them etc.). List of countries can be in text or a flag can be next to the name of the country. But different recognition of flags, their aesthetics, experiences with the flag etc. can have unforeseen effects on the order of flags. We must ask ourselves if we foresaw or wanted such effect.

Studies show that adding graphics can affect answers. One famous example puts a picture of a healthy or unhealthy person next to the question. Respondents have to assess their own health. Usually feel their own health is worse when shown the picture of a healthy person.

We should avoid the use of graphics and multimedia where this is possible. This is especially the case if we only use them as a decoration or illustration. We only use them if they are essential for the answer (eg. if we assess images, adverts, videos etc.).

In the marketing research there are a lot of supporters of intensive use of multimedia (we find them by the keywords “surveytainement”, “gamification”) where they cite positive effects such as higher response rates, more enthusiastic responses and more in depth responses. Holistic studies showing if such effects can be achieved by using other methods are still missing. What is especially missing are studies showing deficiencies of such approach (eg. Bias of responses, short terminism of effects, lower quality of responses).

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