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Meeting of 14th June 2012

Meeting of 14th June 2012

We all know Joanna well because she is the designer and editor-in-chief of our Club website but she described to us what she does in her 'real' life.

The title of Joanna's presentation was "Behind the Blonde - life, love and lifelong learning". 

Joanna started by telling us of her origins. She is very blonde and told us that her parents were Polish, although she was born in Ireland. Her parents both took part in, and later escaped from, the Polish Uprising in Warsaw but did not meet until they were both in Ireland. Joanna was sent to a Polish (Saturday) school in England and learnt the language and folk dancing but also to be very self-sufficient and live off the land, with the Polish girl scouts, because she was being trained to return to help free Poland from Soviet rule. Thankfully, Lech Walensa got there first! Family is extremely important to Joanna as well as helping others who need help.

Her early love was psychology and Joanna asked us what psychology means to us. The audience suggested a number of relevant words and she told us that the origin of the word is the Greek 'psyche' - the study of the soul. Psychology and philosophy both try to make sense of the world around us and a psychologist will use any opportunity to fill in the gaps in what we see and experience.

Psychology has developed into many different branches, for example Behaviourism which we all know from "Pavlov's dogs" showing us how a stimulus gives rise to a certain response. She showed us photos of chocolate cake and raspberries and asked what we felt about these.

Other branches are Cognitive psychology, which looks at decision making and information processing; Developmental, Evolutionary and Sexual psychology which look at the responses of our bodies, brains, hormones etcetera to our environment and social surroundings. Joanna illustrated this point with a photo of the back of a naked woman showing a curvy body and said that most men respond positively to this photo because it shows a woman with a waist to hip ratio that has been found in evolutionary terms to be best at child-bearing and, therefore, is suggestive of fertility and the production of healthy, long-lived children.

Neuroscience is a more recent part of psychology. It is the science of how the brain works. Over the past few years it has become possible with brain scans of people testing Coca cola and Pepsi cola, after watching advertisements for each product, to see how differently they are affected by advertising of positive, friendship interactions and more activity or lifestyle-based interactions.

Joanna has worked in all branches of psychology but now works in business. At an early point in her life she decided that understanding psychology meant understanding people. The research that Joanna works in at present is as a qualitative researcher running Focus Groups. This research helps to develop new products, improve customer service, understand employee attitudes, understand government and social research policy and increase website effectiveness, amongst many other things. Her research bridges the two worlds between the values and priorities of organisations and those who run them, and the processes that form customer/consumer attitudes. It is extremely important for businesses to understand their consumers. The researcher investigates client reactions and helps the provider to make the right product. For this the researcher needs to understand the consumer psychology when interviewing, so Interviewers need to be taught the psychology of interviewing potential customers.

We were shown two short videos which demonstrated how a small difference in interviewing technique can totally alter the amount and value of the information gained from interviewing a potential customer about a new product. [I think this may have made her audience more aware of how they are being manipulated when doing a Market Research Survey.] There are a range of methods used to teach interviewing techniques which include filming people, workshops and working on-line to make 'face-shots' by slowing down a film of facial expressions.

The qualitative researcher works hand-in-hand with quantitative research, which shows the 'numbers' side of things. We were shown a video of a group of men discussing a car engine in terms of the specifications and their feelings about the car. The qualitative side was the 'tingle' - the special feeling about why you want one thing more than another.

Joanna is a Fellow of the Market Reasearch Society and last year won a prize for the Best Workshop. We could all see why she won!

Labeed asked if the psychological effects that Joanna researches are culture-wide and she told us that there are big differences between different countries.