Lie To Me

Here’s a silly question:

Does anyone think this works?


While I suppose my parents might occasionally answer something like that truthfully, I’m sure as hell not. If I were, there’d be no blog. There’s surely an ethical discussion to be had, but I don’t personally feel like I have any ethical responsibility to some panel company or their subcontractor, at least not on this particular question; I’m nearly always completely honest on the rest.

(For that matter, shouldn’t all the professional respondents we keep hearing about be marking “yes” on these? They’re working in market research, right?)

Best part of this, of course, is that there’s no way to know if it works or not…so why do we keep doing it?



Filed under ethics, Market Research, open questions, web research

9 responses to “Lie To Me

  1. Paul

    Hello, You would be amazed how many people get screened out at this SORT of question. That said the one you have shown has so few options that it is obvious that you should say no to all of them.

    To give you one example from my past career … a face to face interview was moved to a panel (young people, alcohol) – with exactly the same questionnaire and the drop out rate soared. The reason? The interviewers eventually owned up to pushing people through the interview if they were short of quota.

    What amazed me was that no one ever questioned why it was so easy to find young people in the treet who had never done bar work …

  2. kelpenhagen

    I agree with Paul.

    Screeners work – because people get screened out.

    Sure – as a researcher, it’s sometimes nice to have a sneaky look at what someone else is up to, but I find that it rarely “reveals” what the competition is up to – and as your blog shows, just normally highlights how shit surveys can be. They tend to be cautionary tales, rather than ever insightful. So most of the time, I check out the screener to see if they are allowing people in marketing, and if they don’t, then I graciously screen out. Kind of a do-unto-others philosophy I have on life.

  3. bgfred

    I thought these were offered as a professional courtesy to other researchers back in the day when random telephone surveys were king and the do not call list had yet to be invented. You could opt politely! šŸ™‚

    Somewhat more seriously, I think they provide a way to let the more paranoid clients (and they know who they are) choose to believe that their competitors don’t know what is in their surveys and what they’re up to – whether it’s valuable or not to know per kelpenhagen’s comment.

  4. Paul is right, a question like this is useful if the terminates are subsumed in a larger list that obscures the subject (gee, is that a footwear study?). Researchers and respondents can still game the question, of course, but a more comprehensive list makes the desired outcome less obvious.

    As to your question, no we do not want to screen out “professional” respondents (at least not in the sense of high-volume respondents). Individuals who take a lot of surveys typically provide higher quality data than their peers, probably because they genuinely like and understand the survey process. The “cheaters” are the problem, but they can be caught more readily through various data quality assessments, as they are going to lie on screener questions anyway.

  5. I think these questions are a problem. Sometimes they are used to screen people out, and survey responders know this. They know that as long as they answer no to all of the options, they will be allowed through the survey and they will get the incentive. BUT, there are a few cases where where answering yes gets you in the survey. Responders don’t know they is. So, the dishonest/inattentive responders disrupt they data one way or the other.

  6. I have a problem with researchers lying at this question and completing the survey although almost everyone I know does it.

    You say “I donā€™t personally feel like I have any ethical responsibility to some panel company or their subcontractor” but if you work in research I think you do. Otherwise – why not lie your way into focus groups or anything else that market researchers are doing? I cannot see the difference between lying about this and lying about your age, brand use etc. I guess it doesn’t mess up the data as much but it is still dishonest.

  7. I’d say because it’s an irrelevant screener, and we know why it’s there. Lying about brand use once you’re in a survey is clearly going to affect data; lying about your job certainly isn’t, unless you seriously have reason to believe the end client is going to be looking intently at orange juice brand preference crosstabbed by career choice, right?

  8. Fair point. It doesn’t make much difference to the data. But I think the idea is that you exclude people because of confidentiality. Would you lie to get into a focus group? (If you actually had a desire to go to one). I guess so, but you’d probably feel worse.

    Anyway, I know everyone does it. I was at a conference of the MRIA (Canada’s MR association) when a panellist from one of the agencies said he was on 8 panels. No one even questionned it. I think researchers going through surveys is the least of our problems right now. I still answer accurately though.

    But I understand you’re providing a service. As you said – without it there would be no blog.

  9. vvvladut

    So we can tell clients: we screened out people working into one of your “sensitive occupations” (I think this is what they call them).

    As if that were done automatically somehow.

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