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Rarely Rational – Courtesy Bias

A conversation about the peak end rule and some of our experiences where we come across this bias in life, in marketing and user experience.

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In this episode of our Rarely Rational series, Madhavi Nadig and Jyothi Sridhar discuss why courtesy may not always be welcome. Courtesy Bias makes it hard for user researchers to get unfiltered opinions, since people may withhold their real views due to courtesy.

  • Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat, na bruyat satyam apriyam, priyam cha nanrutam bruyat
  • Jyothi thinks this shloka aptly captures user researchers’ expectations of their participants
  • If feedback is not honest or incomplete, then it’s not very useful to the researchers
  • User researchers seek critical feedback
  • Purely positive feedback is useful only in boosting egos
  • To be nice and positive, people withhold sharing negative aspects while giving feedback
  • Family and close friends give raw, unfiltered feedback. Madhavi and Jyothi wish their target group did the same too.
  • Due to Courtesy Bias, users value being courteous over honesty in their feedback
  • Some participants fabricate opinions that they think will please the researchers
  • Courtesy Bias stems from cultural conditioning, a people-pleasing mindset, hesitation to disagree, etc
  • Madhavi takes all qualitative feedback with a pinch of salt and looks for broad themes
  • Jyothi tries to make her interviewees feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts openly
  • Madhavi suggests taking power imbalance out of the equation
  • Courtesy Bias could stem from introvertedness, feelings of Imposter Syndrome, paucity of time, or apathy
  • One may exhibit Courtesy Bias in public, but express freely in private settings
  • Closed polls may be better than open polls
  • NPS scores give you a sense of who’s a promoter, detractor or passive about your product
  • Individual user interviews may yield better insights than focus groups
  • It’s hard to convey negative feedback without sounding rude or harsh
  • How do you handle negative feedback, if you get it?
  • What appears as Courtesy Bias, could stem from multiple other unconscious biases
  • Courtesy Bias is itself a form of Response Bias
  • Madhavi suggests explicitly disassociating from the product so that users won’t worry about hurting your sentiments
  • Ensure questions aren’t leading, so people don’t feel the pressure to agree (to be “courteous”)
  • Jyothi believes news channels have figured out how to use Courtesy Bias to raise their TRPs
  • Madhavi thinks the shloka needs an addition—don’t propagate half-truths either.

This podcast is brought to you by Adeptic Creative Labs with support from the team at Clearly Blue Digital.

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