Häagen Dazs or Magnum ice cream – methodology, artefacts and bias

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2007/12/11 · 0 comments 9.203 views

We have discussed the issue regarding research methodology and important it is to focus on methodology when trying to figure out findings from studies beofre, such as:

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Researchers need a statistical method to tell whether apparent relationships are real or the result of chance. Does a new drug treat a disease better than a placebo? Does pre-school education enhance later academic performance? Does ice cream with artificial flavors surpass those with natural ingredients only when it comes to taste?

There are many ways in which a statistically significant result can be misinterpreted. One is failure to take account of hidden factors not included in the statistical analysis, which bias the outcome. For instance, it is know that thicker chogolate bars do not melt as nicely in one’s mouth as do thinner ones that can affect the consumer’s perception regarding the quality of a dark chocolate. Without taking the thickness of chocolate into consideration, a consumer tasting trying to rank these chocolate bars can result in a response bias.

Why does it matter?

Statistical analysis – if carried out well – is the most rigorous and objective way to assess how well evidence fits theory.

What can happen when things go wrong is illustrated nicely here:

Schokoladen Test – Methoden mit Fragezeichen – Kassensturz und Ktipp


Better consumer tests thanks to proper data crunching(Please click on the link, Login as guest – click on this link again and voila free access)
Challenge How research may address it Example variable
Could the effect differ across industries – yes if we control for the effect (e.g., financial industry versus others, men vs. women) control variable artificial ingredients vs. natural ingredients only
Could one say that being a self-declared ice cream lover (M) mediates the causal effect of expert status (ice cream expert versus consumer) (X) on ratings given to ice cream (Y) – test using a group of tasters who are experts and one who are consumers users mediating variable use a group of tasters of ice cream lovers (afficionados) versus others
How can one describe the nature and process by which the independent variable affects the dependent one such as taster’s rating of ice cream – test effect with help of moderating variable (latter could be how the ice cream is being served in a glass versus plastic container) moderating variable the way the ice cream is being served (tasting in plastic cup versus having it serviced in a nice glass blowl)
Conjoint anlaysis has been used in marketing since the mid-70’sConsumers may look for features and consider price in a product such as a camera… possibly even how it looks but brand may come much later conjoint- analysis difficulty is that people do not necessarily rank products the way one is asked to do with this type of method
Where respondents influenced in any way before being being interviewed or filling out a survey halo-effect asking them what ice cream flavor they prefer or what type of chocolate before rating the ice cream bars
Can the results be repeated by another person – yes if we use a metric or yard stick and outline what research methodology we used…. so somebody else can repeat the study reliability if it is a consumer test, would another group of ice cream tasters get similar results
Does it measure what it is supposed to measure – yes but only if we do use a metric stick if this is our standard we follow – using a yard stick results in invalid data if the measure we agreed to use is based on meters and centimetersYard stick shows, something can be reliable but not valid. validity are the issues asked really relevant to how an ice cream tastes (color is not but ingredients are relevant)

The above just describe a simple ice cream tasting that intends to reveal which kind of ice cream might be the most liked one from a consumer’s point of view.

However, it is hard to understand fully facts about a study without getting some clear explanations regarding the methodology that was used.  There are many ways in which a statistically significant result can be misinerpreted. The above illustrates that a researcher’s failure to take account of hidden factors not included in the statistical analysis, the outcomes will be biased. In turn, neither replication of the findings nor generalization to the larger population can be made.


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