What is Group Effect or Group Bias? | 101 Market Research Guide

It's important to be aware of the group bias effect when performing market research. This bias can negatively impact a person's answers when taking part in qualitative research studies. Keep reading to learn more about the group bias effect, including what it is and how to prevent it from occurring when conducting focus group studies for market research.

Group effect or group bias can have a major impact on the results of your focus group or qualitative research. Learn more about it and how to prevent it here.

What is Group Effect or Group Bias? | 101 Market Research Guide

What is the Group Bias Effect?

The group bias effect can occur during face-to-face group discussions. In an attempt to uphold a consensus, participants agree with each other’s opinions instead of providing their own truthful responses. This often leads to exaggerated responses and results that do not accurately reflect the true opinions of all participants.

When performing focus groups, a variety of questions are asked that query participants about different attributes of a service or product. Such attributes can include packaging of the product, advertisement surrounding the product, use of the product, and more. A major focus of many focus group research studies is the perception of consumers regarding specific marketing methods.

There are many focus group methods. The most common tend to be:

  • Dual moderator: Two moderators take part in the group session. One focuses on ensuring smooth progression while the other moderates to make sure all topics are covered.
  • Dueling moderator: One moderator takes a certain stance on the topic(s) being discussed and another intentionally takes a different stance.
  • Two-way: This involves two focus groups. One group observes the other group and their observations are noted to draw a final conclusion.
  • Client participant: At least one customer representative is present to take part in the group's dialogue; his or her presence may be kept a secret.
  • Respondent moderator: Various participants take on the role of a moderator, but only temporarily and one at a time. Participants are more likely to provide honest answers when different people fill the role of the moderator during the group session.
  • Mini focus groups: Mini focus groups generally consist of four to five participants. In some instances, they may have an even smaller number of members. Regular size focus groups usually have eight to 12 participants. ​
  • Teleconference: The group study is performed via telecommunication technology.
  • Online focus groups: Participants join the group study via the internet.

In some group studies, group participants do not know who the moderators are. This is especially evident among dueling moderator groups. Two moderators take different stances to ensure participants feel comfortable with their opinions, even if those opinions significantly differ from some of the other participants’ opinions.

Example of Group Effect Bias

Let’s say a company recruits for 2 focus groups of 12 participants each. The main screening criteria and shared attributes of the groups are they have to be Kia owners. The moderator starts the discussion by talking about participants’ satisfaction with their vehicles and the brand. Several excited participants jump right in and glow about the gas mileage, sleek new models, and comfort. These brand promoters in the focus group talk at length about Kia over the first 10 to 15 minutes of the group discussion.

One participant in particular is sitting quietly in the group. Let’s call him Jim. Jim has had a poor experience with his Kia and has been to the service shop over 6 times in the past 3 months since he purchased the vehicle. It has been one problem after another and when he purchased the Kia, he even had issues with financing and approval.

However, since the group discussion was steered in a positive direction and everyone in the group seemed to love their Kia vehicles, Jim was afraid and embarrassed to bring up his problems in fear of standing out and going against the group. Therefore he quietly told the moderator, “My Kia is great, I agree with everyone else’s’ opinions.”

This is group effect. As a result the findings and the report are reflective of the majority who steered the findings in a specific direction and did not allow others to voice their counter-opinions properly.

How to Avoid Group Bias?

Group bias can often be eliminated with a strong moderator. It is their job to challenge participants, get everyone to speak, and make them feel comfortable with voicing differing opinions. This is why before each focus group moderators often state there is no right or wrong answer. However, once the study starts, group biases can easily form.

To avoid the group effect, follow these tips:

  • Plan for it: Plan for the group effect to take place, and create ways to avoid it.
  • Encourage debate: Encourage participants to give honest answers. Remind them there is no right or wrong answer.
  • Recruit participants with different personalities: Use questions that require creative answers when recruiting participants, such as "What famous person would you like to have dinner with?" Participants who can answer creatively and thrive under pressure are ideal candidates for focus group research studies.
  • Account for group biases: When analyzing the results of a group research study, account for the group effect. Make sure those doing the analysis do not have a personal or professional attachment to the product. Remaining objective is crucial.
  • Host more than one study: Hosting more than one group study is key to gathering valuable market research. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Conduct a minimum of 2 focus groups for each project.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a qualitative market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team of market researchers and moderators are well-trained on the best-practices for conducting focus group research studies and avoiding the group effect.

Need advice on conducting group research studies?

Have a question about avoiding the group effect? Contact us below.

Message us on our website
Email us at [email protected]
Call us at 888-725-DATA
Text us at 315-303-2040

Market Research Glossary