Good column in the New York Times by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons (authors of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us) about the malleability of memory.
Even memories that we are absolutely convinced are true (like so-called flashbulb memories) can be highly inaccurate. Regardless of how intelligent or accomplished we are, a memory is like clay. Each time it is recalled, we tend to distort it just slightly. After a while, that memory can bear little resemblance to reality.
The authors focus on implications for the criminal justice system and for journalism…but what about for market research?
Clients often want to know retroactively a consumer’s thought process when they made a certain decision or they want to know about past experiences with a given product or service. How can we address these issues knowing that any recollections we hear maybe only vaguely accurate – and perhaps wildly inaccurate?