Innovative Motivational Profiling: Comparing Marketing Projective Techniques versus Linguistic Forensic Techniques

By Yeager, Joseph | The Qualitative Report, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Innovative Motivational Profiling: Comparing Marketing Projective Techniques versus Linguistic Forensic Techniques


Yeager, Joseph, The Qualitative Report


Motivational profiling is commonly done in both marketing and forensic contexts. In an unabashed quest for creativity, many marketers use projective psychological techniques to search for inspiration that leads to ad concepts that will, ultimately, sell more products. Forensic professionals also seek predictive information about motivation in search of facts that will effectively lead to the capture and handling of criminals by using the recent advances found in linguistic technology. Projective profiling techniques produce very soft, opinionated data that are open to interpretation and which has only random relevance to predicting customer behavior. In contrast, linguistic profiling techniques produce hard data that are reliable, valid and very powerful in predicting behavior. The differences in process and results between the creative versus linguistic profiling are compared. Linguistic profiling is clearly the superior approach if prediction of behavior is at issue.

Key Words: Motivational Profiling, Forensics, Linguistics, Qualitative Market Research, Creative Techniques, Projective Techniques

Motivation

The playwright Neil Simon summed up a major theme in qualitative research in reference to his stories: "It's about wanting; if it's not about wanting, it's not about people." In law enforcement circles, wanting, a.k.a., motivation, is central to crime fighting. In marketing, motivation is also central. The difference: in law enforcement, motivational profiling is deadly serious because lives are at stake while in marketing, motivational profiling may be merely semi-serious where only money is at stake (... sometimes lots of money).

Law enforcement motivational profiles, driven by linguistic models, are based on evidence. Marketing profiles, at least those generated by projective techniques, are based on unreliable impressions formed without predictive validity: evidence is rarely produced. Three decades of linguistic technology provide the means to get the needed hard facts about motivation. Law enforcement has embraced this technology because the evidence works in profiling motives in high stakes situations. Marketers who use projective techniques get almost no facts and are willing to settle for imagination, vague impressions and supposition that has little or no bearing on the facts of motivation. The difference is behavioral engineering versus creative art.

Enter Linguistics

Let's get our premises clear. We all learn in Psychology 101 that people are always motivated. People are always thinking and deciding about what they want. Scores of motivated decisions begin with our response to the morning alarm clock and continue from moment to moment throughout the day. In grammar school English we learned another relevant fact: "A sentence is a group of words expressing a complete thought." People often say, "Of course! Of course! We know that." Maybe we don't know as much as we would like to think. Few of us wanted to learn all the grammar in the textbooks. Perhaps that explains why research practitioners seldom systematically connect the simple idea that sentences express thoughts to their research designs.

As linguist Benjamin Whorf (1956) noted: "The limits of my language are the limits of my world." In motivational matters, we are largely motivated by what we are capable of thinking. David McClelland, noted pioneering Harvard psychologist, assessed motives by language content analysis (McClelland, 1961). His early work looked for thematic motivational differences among verbiage expressed by cultures, but he did not plumb the latent depths of linguistic architecture. Soon, linguists added the missing ingredient: They mapped the architecture of language, for example, Chomsky's (1968) "transformational grammar." Then Bandler and Grinder (1975; Grinder & Bandler, 1976) connected the architectural meta-language of language with behavioral assessment, prediction, intervention and change. …

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