Unlocking Hidden Insights: The Use of Micro-expression Studies in Pharma Market Research

In the evolving landscape of pharmaceutical market research, finding deeper insights beyond reported data is paramount. Jessica VandenPlas, Research Director at OptiBrand Rx, sheds light on a technique employed by our firm – the analysis of micro-expressions.

The Power of Micro-expressions

Micro-expressions, involuntary facial expressions reflecting real-time emotional states, have been part of market research for decades. These fleeting expressions can indicate feelings of engagement, fear, pleasure, or nervousness, offering a depth of understanding not readily achieved through traditional self-reporting.

Layering Insights: Beyond Self-Report

Micro-expressions allow researchers to gauge reactions in real-time, associating them with specific stimuli. This technique supplements traditional market research methods, adding an extra dimension of insight. Unlike self-reporting that might be affected by respondents’ perceptions of what the researcher wants to hear, micro-expressions are spontaneous and unfiltered.

Micro-expression Studies: A Scientific Basis

Micro-expression studies have a solid scientific foundation dating back to the 1960s, largely based on the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). FACS codes individual muscle movements in the face, linking certain combinations to specific emotions, such as confusion. By tracking micro-expressions during a respondent’s engagement with a stimulus, researchers can pinpoint confusing elements or segments, providing invaluable insights for message refinement.

Calibrating for Individual Variations

Since facial expressions can vary significantly among individuals, researchers perform calibration for every respondent, identifying deviations from their neutral face. This method accounts for task-dependent variations, offering an individualized, situation-specific analysis. Combined with eye tracking technology, researchers can identify specific areas of focus, aligning them with the emotional response elicited at the time.

Emotion Tracking at Scale

With remote webcam technology, researchers can now scale up emotional analysis, reaching a larger sample size than just in-person interviews. The benefits include participants’ convenience and the potential for broader, more diversified insights. With the participant’s informed consent, researchers can track visual focus and emotional reactions during interviews or online surveys, adding depth to the responses.

Tackling Privacy Concerns and Potential Bias

The use of micro-expressions in research has raised privacy concerns, a major reason for tech giants like Microsoft distancing from facial analysis software. However, OptiBrand Rx informs participants about the use of this technology, obtaining their consent before proceeding. The voluntary nature of the technique reduces privacy concerns, with most participants agreeing to participate.

As for potential bias, the spontaneous nature of micro-expressions makes them difficult to fake or suppress without conscious effort. Therefore, although bias is possible, it is less likely with micro-expressions compared to other market research methodologies.

The analysis of micro-expressions offers a compelling tool in pharmaceutical market research, unveiling hidden insights and supplementing traditional self-report data. As privacy concerns are addressed and technology advances, this approach holds great potential for understanding consumer behavior in greater depth.

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