Facial Coding for Depth Interviews

Micro expressions while watching a TV ad
Watching a TV commercial

Dr John Habershon of Momentum Research has specialised in this area; using videos of facial expressions to help read emotions and understand how people engage with communications. You may have come across Facial Coding being used on a larger scale with systems like Affectiva, but you can get a more detailed read using stills from a video camera that has focused on the respondent’s reactions. It is based on the work of Paul Ekman, who made very detailed mapping of the facial muscles and movement groups.  However, for market research it is enough to be able to spot some of the micro expressions that give away fleeting emotions and then be able to discuss them with the respondent.

For example, notice the brief expression of disgust that appears in the top right while this respondent is watching an ad that she says she enjoys.

Interestingly, its a useful way of observing System 1 or Fast Thinking  (see Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman) which is usually very rapid and not easily monitored.

Still from Reading Emotions

John has released an interactive book called Reading Emotions in iTunes which will be of interest not only to researchers but also people on the autistic spectrum, students of emotional intelligence – anyone who deals with others face to face. All the videos on the ebook are now available free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ag53dGZ6dk

Here’s a link to a set of web pages designed for MR agencies and comms testing.  https://indd.adobe.com/view/93e391ac-313d-4068-8e15-be142ac5c8b4

You can test your ability to distinguish a real smile from a fake one, using this archived science test from the BBC

Using Semiotics

XSight and Quirkos Qualitative Analysis Software

XSight brochure exampleXSight is a very easy to use version of NVivo, developed specifically for market researchers, to help with the analysis processes of coding, searching, comparing, building connections and frameworks of ideas. The original version was updated in 2006 and there will be no further updates.  The XSight website has a tutorial showing the main product features and links to the brochure.

It does not do the thinking for you, but it helps manage and organise the data in various ways so that you can think more clearly. Some researchers have found that it takes longer to use the software on projects of 4 -6 groups, where the amount of data is still manageable by hand and brain. However, it excels where there are large numbers of groups or interviews and is particularly useful for projects where an audit trail is required – often social research.

Quirkos was launched in 2014 as a fresh approach to qualitative analysis; the founder and Director being Dr Daniel Turner.

Its look and feel is very different, with visual representations of the codes appearing on screen. This may well help induce market researchers to put more time into the fundamental coding process, which can feel like a drudge when there is a lot of material.

Like XSight, it offers a free trial. The video shows a speeded up coding process – if only it were that fast!




In its own words,  ‘SenseMaker links micro-narratives with human sense-making to create advanced decision support, research and monitoring capability in both large and small organisations.’

It allows people to collect images, conversations, writing, both formally and informally, then uses a patented method to interpret the stories into a series of abstract concepts. Unlike apps like Storify, SenseMaker requires the participants themselves to interpret their story and is based on complexity theory. It deals with large amounts of data and produces statistical data backed up by explanatory narrative, making it ideal for all sorts of ethnographic and community projects.


 What is an Insight?

A great deck by @Umar Ghuman umarg.com, putting together perspectives from planning directors and luminaries in the business. There still is no one definition, but you will have fun working out your own. Are insights about Truth, Weird-Normal, Reshaping Perception or a Disturbance in the Discourse?  Find out here

My colleague in Electric Learning, John Griffiths, spoke at an APG Conference at Google UK HQ (the closest we get to being cool in the UK), giving his well researched take on the subject of ‘What is an Insight’. If you don’t have time to watch, he is also featured in the slide deck above.