Service of Research

October 17th, 2011

Categories: Education, Research


Before 6 am Saturday morning I heard on a tri-state news station that in 2012 and 2013, there would be a study to evaluate kindergarten students to refine early childhood education accordingly. I was waking up but I’m pretty sure it was in New York State.

Why a study? If someone discovers a way to better teach preschoolers how to focus, read, count, memorize, identify colors, solve puzzles, write, draw, dance, play baseball, follow instructions, exercise or sing, do they require a two year study to show that their idea is needed because first graders already do or don’t perform whatever’s in question pretty well?

suggestionbox2Companies are always asking employees–some get rewards-to share more efficient, cost-saving and effective ways of performing tasks and solving problems. Should it take two years to figure out that by switching to vendor A you’d save $X, compared to your current vendor, and perhaps save time to boot?

focus-group1I love reading the results of studies and research. Medical research may well have saved dear ones not to speak of myself.  I realize that research can be skewed to prove any point, but I’m still fascinated about what people [say they] think.

At the same time, I hate waste, which the kindergarten study is, and an attempt to extrapolate behavior from too narrow a study group, as in the following example.

In last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Christopher Shea reported on Shane Frederick’s research project, “Overestimating Others’ Willingness to Pay,” in his “Behavioral Economics” column. According to Shea, Frederick found that “People significantly overestimate what other people will pay for consumer goods and other experiences.”

My problem with the project: Frederick studied only students–at MIT, Harvard and Michigan–343 in all. The fact that students said they’d pay $690 to have perfect teeth while they thought others would pay $1,350 tells me what some students might think. Does that mean that a mother of two or a father with kids in college, a retired couple, single man of 35 or 50 who begins to worry about signs of aging, or an unemployed farm or construction worker would think the same? Doesn’t it matter who your friends, co-workers and acquaintances are?

Do you know of unnecessary studies and/or flawed research that annoys you? Can you help me understand the validity of studying kindergarten students when you’d be better off spending that money to improve early childhood education? Do you think a study of 100 percent college students’ consumer behavior reflects what the general population thinks and/or does?


4 Responses to “Service of Research”

  1. KPG Said:

    Good for you!

    I spend half my time doing research for which I am not paid. I do it because I want to, and as a consequence, am usually the principal beneficiary of my work. But these people are being paid to do this, on the face of it, absurd delving.

    While corporations can also do silly research, the principal culprits are governments and not-for-profits, where the need to turn a profit does not disturb the tranquility of the work place.

    It also helps explain why the cost of education in this country seems to increase in almost direct proportion to its decline in quality.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For insecure marketers in the [hopefully] for profit world, there are plenty of market research opportunities to determine which logo, magazine cover, flavor, animal face on packaging, product name etc. etc. would draw more business. From what I have read and heard about Steve Jobs, he didn’t bother with that. He didn’t have to nor was it his style. But middle managers in giant corporations must cover themselves, especially if sales go south.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    The basic goal of research is to establish fact. Much of the research discussed above is corrupted by the intent to mislead, thus producing undesireable consequences such as a deteriorating school system.

    Governments and not for profits are no more to blame than the “for profit” outfits. Trying to lure money from purses or create opinions on false premises is human nature, and varying results are a crap shoot. Today’s “We are the 99%” signs being marched up and down Wall Street is a case in point. Ninety nine percent are NOT without jobs and are NOT willing to bring down the banks or the Stock Exchange. The fact of the matter is that this so called “grass roots” movement is being financed by one of the country’s well endowed PACs, among others, and the envisaged percentage probably lies in the single digits.

    Selling is a chancy business, and while “research” is a scholarly sounding term, it cannot account for sudden popularity of gadgets and causes. Ask the people who invented Monopoly, the Slinky or the Hula Hoop. How much research went into such efforts, or was it just dumb luck?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You mention some of my favorites–Monopoly, the Slinky and Hula Hoop to which I add jacks, Parcheesi, Clue, Silly Putty and the soap bubbles. It would be interesting to know how these were marketed, how expensive it was to market them in their early days—what percent of the price covered advertising, merchandising etc–and whether any of them used market research along the way.

    I don’t think that legitimate market researchers are to be blamed for luring money from corporations. There are enough insecure companies that gladly write the checks to determine whether green or blue packaging is best etc. and I’m hoping that someone chimes in with a few great examples of market research and how it saved a product–and its owners–from making mistakes that would cost more money than the research.

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