Chick-fil-A and Ethics

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This summer Chick-Fil-A went under fire over the company's president Dan Cathy's statements and millions of dollars in donations to anti-gay groups.

vote now.jpgTownhall, a conservative online magazine, ran the ad seen at left, asking internet browsers, "Do you support Chick-fil-A? Vote Now!" The obvious answer for those who do not want their money supporting anti-gay hate groups and ex-gay ministries is, "No, I do not support Chick-fil-A."

But when the ad is clicked, the survey question Townhall asks is completely different:

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The question is no longer about whether a person supports Chick-fil-A knowing its anti-gay policies, it's a question about supporting its "freedom of speech and religious expression." This question really has nothing to do with the controversy that surrounded Chick-fil-A because nobody is trying to infringe on those freedoms.

It's funny because the whole issue with the company in the first place was about the company's ethics. But their supporters' attempts of tricking respondents into pinning them as victims - another issue in itself.

Guilty Survey Taking

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Last weekend my dad and I went to a body shop to get my car fixed after a small accident I had been in. Overall, service was fairly good and there weren't any large problems. However, as we were leaving the mechanic helping us told me that we would be getting a call from corporate asking about our customer service experience. But the problem was that he then tried to guilt-trip me by saying if I didn't score him all '10's' on the survey he had the possibility of getting fired.

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Really? Doesn't this defeat the purpose of me taking the survey in the first place?

I'm sure the company has good intentions when asking the customer to take the survey. They're most likely attempting to gauge how well their employees are performing, whether customers are happy, etc, but by my scores being influenced by my moral code in not wanting to get a man who helped fix my car fired. The company's not going to learn anything from my responses; I may as well not send in "my" scores.

Maybe the survey would be better if customers weren't asked for individual employee performance, but overall effectiveness of the location. I think managers know enough about their employees to know if someone is an issue or if someone is a stellar salesperson, etc.

In the end, it doesn't help the company for me to give them a 10. That means they have nothing to improve on, which is never true. They don't want my perfect scores; they want my honest opinion that gives them room to improve.

Expressing Your Fears will Conquer Them

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Conquering your fears has been a challenge for people throughout history. An interesting study done at UCLA found that it may be possible to overcome these fears by describing them right before confronting them. A team of psychologists asked 88 people with spider-phobia to get as close as possible to a live tarantuala.

They split the participants into four groups. The first group was asked to describe its experiences and label their reactions to the tarantula, and unlike the other groups were able to get much closer to the spider and seemed to be less nervous and anxious.


"When spider-phobics say, 'I'm terrified of that nasty spider,' they're not learning something new; that's exactly what they were feeling -- but now instead of just feeling it, they're saying it," one researcher said. For some reason that we don't fully understand, that transition is enough to make a difference."

The words participants used also played a role as describing the spider in more negative terms actually helped participants overcome some of their fears. It may seem insignificant at first glance, but considering Lieberman and Craske plan to study how this strategy could help rape or trauma victims, the findings could have major implications on mental health and recovery. It's an interesting thing to think about in terms of larger fear conquering.

You can find the full article here:

Thanks for your purchase! Now fill out this survey.

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As the Christmas shopping season ramps up, and I've spent more and more time at the mall lately, I've been noticing a larger number of surveys on the bottom of my shopping receipts. I've never actually considered filling one out and often think of them as scams.

It made me wonder, do other consumers feel the same? Do stores ever actually gain much information from these receipt surveys?

Recipt.jpgMy initial response would be no. I worked at Banana Republic over the summer, and I was trained in to circle the survey at the bottom of the customer's receipt and instruct them to visit the link to receive 15% off of one item the next time they returned to the store. And how many people in my four month stint at Banana Republic presented me with the discount offer at the checkout? None. Not one single person brought their filled out survey.

Was it that the discounted offer wasn't convincing enough? Or is it that consumers simply don't even consider taking this form of survey?

I found an article from KSDK St. Louis referring to Jack in the Box and their receipt surveys. The manager of the restaurant explained that he averaged about 50 replies a month to their surveys, mostly complaints, but that these criticisms helped to improve the quality of their product.

In the end, I guess that some data and feedback is better than none, so these surveys continue. Maybe the incentives (discounts, etc.) for completely them will even help to alleviate some consumer frustrations.

Text Message Surveys

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iphone 5.jpgThe other day I received a text message from AT&T that asked me to take a short survey about my experience at the store on the same day I had gone in for service. The survey included a series of questions in which I ranked the sales associate I worked with, the store atmosphere, and the amount of time it took me to get help.

I think that this type of survey is extremely effective because they already have a ton of stored information about me. They know where I live, my demographic, how long I've been with AT&T and what store I went to along with a number of other facts about my service usage and requests. The thing about this survey is that they delivered it straight to me in a text message. I agreed to partake because I was intrigued by the fact that my "phone" knew I had gone in for service. I think that if surveys find clients and subjects quickly and at the point of interaction with the service, they'll be more effective.

Lighting Strikes Falsities

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Have you ever heard this stat?: 40-year-old women have as much chance of marrying as being killed by a terrorist.

Shocking, to say the least.

And false.


It was a story in Newsweek in 1986 that became part of popular culture and caused many women to panic as they saw it pop up in movies and television. However, the survey included women who choose to remain single, those who favor a live-in relationship or sequential relationships and those who cannot marry for physical reasons. On top of this, the sample was only of women born in the mid-1950s, meaning they would have only been about 30 at the time and could easily have ended up getting married before their 40th birthdays. Clearly, the data could not generalize to a larger population and really came upon no conclusions.

It's a bit concerning that such a large publication like Newsweek could cause such panic over a low-quality survey. Makes me wonder how many "facts" from today will be discounted years from now.

Oh, the irony.

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Whether this is a joke or not, it's true! It's hard to know how accurate surveys can truly be because of surveyors reluctancy to answer questions out of irritation.

Video Games, Violence, and Cooperation

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Games like Grand Theft Auto have been accused of influencing teenagers' aggression, anger, and violence. The debate has been going on for years about whether this criticism is valid, but maybe this new research, which shows that cooperation in violent video games may curb aggression, will help to calm fears about the link between games and actual violence.

Two separate studies found that college students who played violent video games with a friend were more cooperative and less aggressive than the college students who playing the video games competitively. According to the researchers, the aggressive feelings that come from playing violent video game don't just disappear, they are just balanced out by the feelings that come from cooperating with someone else and joining forces.

"Clearly, research has established there are links between playing violent video games and aggression, but that's an incomplete picture," study co-author and Ohio State professor Dave Ewoldsen said. "Most of the studies finding links between violent games and aggression were done with people playing alone. The social aspect of today's video games can change things quite a bit."

This research should change the way psychologists and communication experts analyze video games in the future because now they must take into account not only the gory content of the game, but also the environment in which user is actually playing the game and who they may be playing with.

I think this is an important step forward and a very important consideration, especially given how often video games are analyzed not only in research labs across the country, but also how video games are portrayed in the news, in pop culture, and by the general public.

Read more about it here:

Texting Leads to Mental Health Issues?

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If you text too much, you are more likely at greater risk of unhealthy or mental health problems. That's what I gathered from Scott Frank's survey in 2010. He was directly quoted saying: "The startling results of this study suggest that when left unchecked texting and other widely popular methods of staying connected can have dangerous health effects on teenagers."

teens-cell-text.jpgOf course it would indeed be startling if his study had demonstrated a clear causative relationship texting and the unhealthy teen behaviors the researchers studied. But of course, this is not what they found. They conducted a survey and, like researchers do, found that a bunch of variables are somehow related, but that exact relationship is not expressed or explained anywhere in the reports.

And the headline: "Hyper-Texting Associated with Health Risks for Teens?" Don't we think that's a little extreme? And completely false?

To make broad, sweeping conclusions about human behaviors based upon a single study's data is just straight lazy and unethical.

What did the research really show? Not much. Teens who have more sex than other teens, and who are more likely to try "risky" behaviors -- such as smoking or drinking -- text more than other teens.

Maybe it's simply because they have a more active social life. It's not nearly as startling when you look at what the actual research.

You can check out the article here:

Making a Difference through Participation

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I found a chart from a survey asking "What should be done to increase online survey cooperation rates?" I always thinks it's funny to come across surveys asking about how to make surveys better. I wonder if these types of studies have higher response rates. In my own experience, I'm more likely to respond to a survey asking how it can improve its questioning in hopes that irritating surveys won't get in my way again.


Maybe it's that I think that an actual change can happen if I answer honestly. It's something to think about when creating future surveys. Maybe if the survey participants believe their answers can actually make a difference, they'll be more willing to respond.