Thinking fast and slow in web survey design

Is market research for dummies?

A few weeks back I got myself in some trouble with some folks when I posted this piece criticizing the new book, Neuromarketing for Dummies, without having read it.  I also received some emails suggesting that the book is better than it sounds and that the authors are not pop science hacks, but people with broad knowledge of the subject matter and experienced survey researchers. I even got a very nice note from one of the authors asking that I read the book and let him know what I thought of it.

DummySo I went ahead, bought a Kindle version of the book, and have now read it.  My overall impression is that the authors indeed know their stuff and generally have done a nice job of organizing the material.  But the Dummies format was at the heart of my original critique and reading the book has not changed that view.  As the authors tell us early on, “we don’t take our subject matter or ourselves too seriously.”  And, like all Dummies books, it is designed so that you can jump in and out, focusing just on “the important parts” with the help of icons that draw your attention to tips, important points, and things to avoid.  There is even an online cheat sheet that boils it all down to a single web page.  What there is not is a list of reference that lets you dig into the content in more detail, although I understand one is in prep.  They also refer the reader to two other related books in the series dealing with neuroscience and behavioral economics, but I have yet to look at them.

There are some content nits that I could pick but that is not the point of this post. It is only to say that my initial criticism of the book stands.  I worry that it encourages a superficial understanding of what are pretty complex ideas, something that I think is all too common in contemporary market research.  If, as some argue, behavioral science has the capacity to transform much of market research, a point of view for which I have some sympathy, we need more than a superficial understanding of its basic principles and theories. The is subject matter that deserves to be taken seriously.

No offense Stephen, Andrew, and Peter, but I just wish you had written a different kind of book.