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Linking Emotions, Needs and Behaviors – A New Qualitative MR Technique

August 24, 2014

Needs-Feelings-BehaviorsA large number of the projects I do include an objective similar to: Increase understanding of customer’s perceptions and needs. My recent investigation into a self-awareness technique called Adaptive Inquiry has provided what I regard to be breakthrough insights into the way that participant’s interpretations of their emotions relate to their needs and drives their behavior. Check out the Adaptive Inquiry website if you want to learn more about the underlying theory. Here is how I applied my new awareness of this technology in a recent study.


A client already has deep insight into the mindset of the patients they have served for many years. However, their intention to launch a new advertising campaign led them to ask me for a uniquely different way to gain a greater depth of insight into the emotional state of a subset of patients.


In consultation with the creator of Adaptive Inquiry, Charles Jones, I created a set of “emotion cards” covering the full spectrum of feelings that these patients might experience. At the appropriate time during a live, in-depth interview I exposed the full array of cards to the participant and asked him or her to:

  1. Select all the emotion cards that apply when considering the impact of their medical condition.
  2. Rank the selected emotion cards in order according to the intensity and frequency with which they are experienced
  3. Read aloud and complete the script on the back of the top few cards representing the predominant emotions at play

The script for all the emotion cards has the same first line. However, the bottom line varies for each emotion depending on the unique mapping provided by Adaptive Inquiry. The one for sadness might be the easiest to relate to.

The script on the “Sad” card looks like this:

When I think of the impact I experience from my medical condition, I feel:
Sad… because I don’t know how to fulfill my yearning for ____.

The second line of the script, adapted from the mapping of perceived unfulfilled needs to emotions as delineated  by Adaptive Inquiry, makes this process both unique and powerful. As patients read the script aloud they go right to the heart the matter… the unfulfilled need that is driving their feelings.


In many instances as participants read the script aloud and intuitively fill in the blank they look at me with both surprise and vulnerability. When I reassure them and ask about their experience they indicate they have just learned something new about their emotional experience, and the unspoken question in their eyes is “how did you know that about me?” The further conversation about their emotional response to their medical condition often covers new ground resulting from their new awareness and establishes a reference point for the rest of the interview.


One of the premises of Adaptive Inquiry is that by clarifying the source of our emotions we can “Feel deeply and Think clearly”. I believe that this exercise helps participants to view their emotions in a new way and makes their responses throughout the rest of the interview more clear and consistent and true to what really drives their behavior.

If you have a project that would benefit from accurate insight into the emotional experience of your customers please contact me. I would love to brainstorm with you on ways that this technique or others might support your qualitative market research needs.

Click here to learn more about Dave Kreimer and Next Step Consulting

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