Psychology in Market Research

Psychology and market research have a lot in common. In fact, many psychology professionals choose the realm of market research as a career path. Both disciplines seek to understand more about people— and approach that task through research. While the objectives and action taken from the results may vary, both use similar methodologies and processes to achieve their goals. Rather than thinking about these two disciplines separately, we want to learn about the basics of psychology and how to approach market research with psychological thinking in order to build a stronger foundation for research findings.

Psychology 101

Psychology has been around since the late 1800’s when it got its start through the studies of Wilhelm Wundt. Today it’s the study of the human mind as it relates to our emotions, attitudes, thought processes, and ultimately our behaviors. There are a variety of specialty areas including consumer behavior, social, clinical, forensic, and so on. Within each specialty many tools are utilized; however, research is one of the most crucial ones. Starting with the scientific method like most “ologies,” psychology approaches a question by making observations, gathering data, forming theories, testing those theories, and interpreting results. Some of the most commonly used research methods include

  • Controlled experiments: often for the testing of treatments or solutions to a behavior
  • Case studies: for observational insights into behavior
  • Correlation studies: to understand relationships between behaviors
  • Other rigorous methods: brain scans, or other neural testing to understand subconscious factors of behavior

After conducting research through one or more methods, psychologists then look to use the results to control or improve upon a behavior— but that’s putting it lightly. There are a variety of other paths psychology experts take before they can begin to understand, predict, and influence behavior. But we’re more focused on how psychology has built the framework for market research. Unfortunately, many researchers fail to recognize its relevance in their work and miss out on an opportunity to further their insights.

Applying Psychological Thinking to Market Research

It’s sometimes easy to forget that what we do as market researchers has so much to do with the behavior of consumers before we even begin the research. That’s why when it comes to applying psychological thinking to our studies, we have to begin to understand its impact before we even start. Here are some tips for applying psychological thinking to your next round of research:

  1. Use proven behaviors and thought processes grounded in psychology to craft more effective questions and study designs
  2. Factor in and avoid the biases found through psychological testing for both the researcher and respondents
  3. Pair observations with your research— like in-home usage tests and shopper studies
  4. Use your understanding of psychology to lend more context or insight into findings that otherwise would be difficult to discern

The field of psychology and market research work in parallel with one another. Brand development, packaging designs, pricing strategies, and other areas all have psychological influences. While market research seeks to understand the behaviors of consumers to the benefit of our goods and services, using lessons from psychology to further that understanding or even change behaviors is a powerful tool.

To learn more about an exploratory research study where we applied psychological thinking to our study design to understand the perceptions of consumers when it comes to quick service restaurants and freshness, check out the executive summary below.

Download Executive Summary