“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional”, rightly quoted by John C. Maxwell, fits very well in the ever growing, constantly changing, fiercely competitive market scenario that persists today. Researchers and marketers rely heavily on consumer research to understand their consumer base better and optimally direct their resources.
While choosing a consumer research methodology, it is important to keep in mind that the respondents are mere humans with their responses prone to being corrupted by bias. If neglected, it can massively undermine the validity of conclusions and paint a false picture of projected success.
For example, this was witnessed when the sales of Pepsi’s Crystal Pepsi plummeted due to consumer confusion. Consumers did not understand why Pepsi expected them to pay more for a drink that is identical to Pepsi, except this one was transparent . To tackle this kind of market research disconnect in a culturally diverse world, Cultural Response Bias needs to be taken into account while selecting your target audience.
So, let’s get out of our Surveymonkey mind and dive in.
What is Cultural Response Bias?
This term refers to the biasness that stems from respondents belonging to different cultural settings, mostly observed when they are exposed to attitudinal questions where response scales are used (for example, the 5-point Likert Scale or the 10-point end-anchored scale).
Possible causes for Cultural Response Bias
Cultural influences that may lead to Cultural Response bias include:
- Linguistic interpretation
- Ethical concepts of right and wrong
- Understanding of facts or evidence-based proof
- Intentional or unintentional ethnic or racial bias
- Religious beliefs or understanding
Components that influence an individual’s response
The answers given by the respondents are subjected to multiple variables. It is very difficult to reliably gauge whether disparities are the result of true differences in the performance or cultural response styles.
Nature of Response Tendencies in Quantitative Research
The 3 most predominant response tendencies are-
1) Socially desirable responding
While taking the quantitative survey, respondents feel inclined to over-report favourable attitudes and under-report unfavourable attitudes. Intentionally or unintentionally, the respondent tries to present a desirable image of self to others.
2) Acquiescence or Yea-saying
Respondents feel inclined to agree with survey questions or respond positively to questions irrespective of content.
Some respondents feel inclined to answer all questions negatively, irrespective of content.
Patterns observed in Cross-national Survey Research
A number of studies have observed that there are substantial and systematic differences in response styles between countries. Tellis and Chandrasekaran’s - Does Culture Matter? Assessing Response Biases in Cross-National Survey Research, remarkably presents some patterns observed across 15 countries, including -
- Socially desirable responding is highest in Singapore and Italy
- Yea-saying is highest in Brazil and India
- Nay-saying is highest in Netherlands and Japan
Problems associated with Cultural Response Bias
While evaluating the results of the quantitative consumer research study, a straightforward comparison of the results across countries can lead to erroneous conclusions and be misleading, such as-
- Over-reporting or under-reporting of the true traits of specific consumers and countries
- Over reporting of new product adoption
- Distortion of the differences in true traits and new product adoption for specific consumers or countries
How to tackle cultural response bias
Tackling cultural response bias can help predict and evaluate both the actual penetration at the aggregate level as well as individual probabilities of adoption, and should be taken into account while conducting quantitative surveys.
1) Perform Behavioural Research
Using technologies like facial coding, eye tracking and voice tonality mapping can reduce the biasness involved in traditional quantitative and qualitative research methods. It taps into the subconscious mind of the respondent and thus reduces dependency on stated responses alone.
2) Pre-Test survey questions
Testing out your survey questions before a full launch can help pinpoint survey questions that may leave space for the cultural response bias to creep in. For example, the way in which a question is worded can leave the question open to interpretation.
3) Competitor Analysis
Getting an insight on how your competitors are going perform will help avoid the use of absolute scores. Using benchmarking, the performance of your brand can be compared with other relevant brands based on the demographic chosen by you.
4) Run surveys in native languages
Administering surveys in the respondent’s native language, rather than just English reduces the negative skew caused by cultural response bias. This leaves less room for the respondent’s understanding of English and enables the respondent to respond without any apprehensions.
5) Utilize worded scales
Worded Scales involve a list of words, phrases or statements and are less prone to interpretation than numerical scales. A number scale is very subjective to the respondents and leads to respondents with the same opinion potentially selecting different categories, creating room for Cultural Response Bias to alter the survey results.
6) Understand Your Demographic
Some demographics are more vulnerable to certain types of bias. Paying attention to ‘who’ and ‘what’ you are asking, reduces the chance of Cultural Response Bias to tweak the responses given by the respondents.
In this era of globalization, it is an absolute necessity to have a bullet-proof consumer research strategy. Conducting market research without keeping the consumer’s mindset and values into account can backfire massively, affecting not just revenue but also leaving consumers sceptical and confused. This leads to huge market research disconnect which is very difficult to recover from.
Hence, understanding the consumer and measuring the impact of Cultural Response Bias in your research is a crucial parameter that cannot be missed. It not only helps you keep pace with the ever evolving mindset of consumers but also helps you strategize , become more customer centric and build a positive brand image.
Using Entropik Tech’s quantitative and qualitative research platform you can tackle response bias with ease. It gives you access to not just Emotion AI technology for performing behavioural research, but you can conduct preliminary tests, utilise the global emotion benchmark score for better competitor analysis, run surveys in over 17 languages and use over 22 survey question types, to understand what works best for your research study.
 Understanding Cultural Bias: 3 Examples of Cultural Bias- Nov 8, 2020, Masterclass.com, Accessed: 03/08/2022
 Tellis, Gerard J., and Deepa Chandrasekaran. “Does culture matter? Assessing response biases in cross-national survey research.” International Journal of Research in Marketing, Forthcoming, Marshall School of Business Working Paper No. MKT (2010): 19-10.