I am a YoungLife leader for Minnehaha Academy High School. Every Monday night we meet with high school students and have a themed club filled with food, games, and a end of club Bible study. Well this past Monday, as leaders we decided to take a break from weekly club and just get together as adult leaders and engage in dinner and fellowship. After serving ourselves some delicious homemade soup and salad, conversation started flowing. Two of the leaders happen to work for a marketing company, and they began commenting on focus groups that their company was putting on. One leader then shared a story about his own focus group experience.
He began to tell us how he had participated in a focus group sponsored by Oscar Meyer. They were looking to test out their newest Turkey dog brand. Each participant was given multiple samples of different hotdogs and then they were asked to rank which ones they preferred the most. The participants were not told which hotdog was a turkey dog. This fellow leader shared a very positive experience about the focus group, he even said he was compensated $100. But what stood out to me the most about his story was how he mentioned that there was one participant from the focus group who looked like he had dressed up for the study. He went out of his way to wear name brand clothes and have nice cologne on, in an effort to impress not only the company but the other participants as well.
That got me thinking about the reliability of focus groups....
Are people as honest as they "pretend" to be in focus groups? Or do some people put on a facade?
The truth is that some people do indeed care what others think of them, so even in instances such as a silly hotdog study, they will present themselves as being someone admirable. Doing so eliminates their credibility because they could be skewing their responses. However, in the end researchers are willing to take this risk with having the participant be included in the study, because the sampling is so small they could not discredit the whole study.