The paradox of memory in market research

Date of publication: June 15, 1968


The results of modern psychology on various aspects of memory - recognition, retention and recall - are all of interest but of varied practical use to market researchers. The problem of respondent memory in market research is illustrated from behaviour studies on readership and purchasing habits. Three alternatives are available to the researcher in handling memory. He can devise techniques which eliminate any reliance on memory. He can attempt to ensure its accuracy by reducing reliance on memory. Alternatively, by the use of aids and questionnaire techniques, he can stimulate memory to the limit which still returns accurate results. The clear advantage is that as much information as possible is extracted at the interview. This paper illustrates the use of each approach - elimination, reduction and stimulation. The advantages and drawbacks of each are examined. Some new ideas and developments are raised for discussion. Conclusions are drawn for the future about the need for more attention to methods, and about the correct handling of memory.

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