How Does Environment Impact Insight?

How Does Environment Impact Insight?

iModerate Author

Aug 16, 2011

Share It

Online market research continues to prove itself as efficient and effective. With smart phones, laptops, desktops and tablets, respondents can be on their couch or on a beach. If their device gets internet, we get insight.

While the freedom that online market research affords us comes with tremendous benefits, we as researchers lose environmental control. Depending on where respondents are or what device they are communicating on, there can be massive amounts of stimuli in play. Sights, sounds, food, lighting, architecture and weatherall affect human psyche. The question is… Do the environmental conditions alter the quality of their feedback for better or worse?


I’ve talked to people who are at home, on the job, and even at the airport. How do these situations play into their feedback? Are your comfortable people at home more likely to stick around and give full answers than a tired, cranky traveler whose iPod just died? Or does the traveler’s mood in that situation help generate more raw, honest feedback? As a moderator I constantly wonder if the person’s screen I am talking with is cluttered with Youtube videos, or if they are chatting with one eye on the TV. If so, is that distracting or is this additional stimulus of their choosing actually keeping them happy and engaged?


I’ve managed to find information about environmental effects on consumer behavior, but nothing that definitively sheds light on the question at hand. So I put it to you. What’s your take on environmental stimuli affecting a person’s conscious, subconscious, mood or focus and ultimately their feedback?




iModerate Author

  • I taught public speaking while in grad school and the first couple of lessons were about listening, because students needed to understand their audience and their distractions (both external and internal). There’s no getting away from it. If you have a class right after lunch everyone is going to be tired. Right before lunch and everyone is gonna be hungry. Unfortunately my students weren’t paid to participate so I had to do weird performance art to get them to participate. DO NOT recommend this with research.

  • Alison

    With regards to my report writing, if I am listening to music the quality of my work seems to improve. I find myself accomplishing a lot with the upbeat background noise. However, I learned in college that my quality of work plummeted when I was near a television. My roommate/boyfriend would also say that my overall attention is focused on the television whenever it’s on anywhere near me. Meanwhile, I know some people who need that type of distraction in order to get work done efficiently. I guess it’s just who the participant is! Great post!

  • Brian

    It’s funny you say that. As a moderator I found that when we’re really busy it help me to listen to live Grateful Dead. Perhaps it’s the positive nature of the music…plus they really go for it stretching songs to over 20 min so it’s easy to keep in the background on some jams. I have noticed it keeps me happy and engaging though.

    Thanks for the feedback – keep it coming as I’m truly curious!! 🙂

    Great insight about time and food!… I imagine that’s a huge element. I suppose though we can’t controll environment, maybe we can be aware of lunch time and time from breakfast or dinner. Perhaps even how other cutures approach their ‘food time’ during our scheduling of international chats.

  • Alex

    I don’t think that the online medium is alone in this environmental impact. From the cute guy/girl in the room with you to the 20minute traffic jam to get there all respondents are impacted by their environment.

    Great post!

  • Niamh

    Great post. I have moderated focus groups previously and now work for an online qualitative company. not meaning to sound cynical but in my experience the main reason people sat in traffic jams to get to a focus group, was so they could get a bit of extra cash.

    What I have noticed with online qualitative research is that people do open up a lot more and are not a guarded. This leads to more in depth insight particularly for new product testing and exploratory studies…as the participant does not feel any pressure to confirm with the common opinion of the group. Great and interesting topic though!

  • You cannot get away from the impact of the environment but I believe “passion” has a lot to do with a person’s insight when they are involved in responding to research questions or survey or anything that they are interested in etc. we can track, measure and test their passion level of insight.

Our research work with iModerate over the past several years has developed into a true partnership. Their unique fusion of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in a single study has offered new insights into key topics and markets of interest for our organization, which in turn, we are able to quickly turn into action steps. They are flexible, responsive, and extremely engaged in the entire project process, from conception and design to final data processing and delivery. They have even gone above and beyond by volunteering their time, resources, and expertise to assist with a special target market project on women. iModerate has their finger on the pulse of the research industry and consistently provides creative suggestions and solutions to enhance our current work. This ultimately allows us to provide our leadership with the strategic insights and opportunities that helps us to advance the common good.

Kristin Thomsen, Manager, Market Research, United Way Worldwide