Research results that resonate: How MRX can learn from MBTI

Research results that resonate: How MRX can learn from MBTI


Feb 25, 2015

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Editor’s Note: Here at iModerate, we’re firm believers in the influence of psychology on research. Our cognitive framework, ThoughtPath, rooted in Experience, Identity, and Perception theories, guides the way that we engage and interact with consumers. Check out the post below to see how Laura Vandiver, VP of Research and Strategic Inisght at the Vandiver Group, Inc., integrates the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator into the way that she delivers research to clients.

As researchers, we know how to get great research results for our clients. While some clients are very savvy consumers of research, others are not. As a result, many of us struggle with trying to explain the research results to our clients in a way that is easy for them to understand. As a cultural anthropologist turned market researcher for a strategic communications/ public relations firm, I often use principles from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) to explain research results in a way that is sensitive to how people understand and interpret information in different ways. The bottom line is this: if your client doesn’t understand the research, they won’t act on it.

Drawing from the behavioral sciences, personality preferences can give researchers great insight into how to communicate with different audiences. The MBTI® instrument is a self-report questionnaire used to help individuals assess their personality preferences on four scales: Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, and Judging and Perceiving. These personality preferences can help us understand how people focus their energy and attention (E and I), how they prefer to take in information (S and N), how people make decisions (T and F) and how people orient themselves to the outside world (J and P). By using this knowledge to create communications about research results, we can provide people the information they need in a way that they find relatable and understandable. The S/N scale (Sensing and Intuition) is most useful for this discussion, as these preferences describe how people take in and understand information.


People who have a preference for Sensing want their information to be concrete. They want to be able to see information that is real and tangible. They tend to be very observant, and may notice very small details in the data. They also tend to understand ideas that have a practical application.


People who have a preference for Intuition want the big picture. Their eyes may glaze over at endless pages of statistics and crosstabs. They prefer creativity, and focus on the patterns and meanings in data.

Present Findings with S/N in Mind

So what’s a researcher to do? Present your findings in a few different ways, and it can mean the difference between an actionable report based on your research findings…or finding your report put on a shelf to collect dust. Here are a few tips for appealing to both the S and N preferences when presenting data to your clients:

  • Tell a story with your data. Use infographics to touch on high-level themes and to call out important statistics. This tactic can keep even the most research-adverse crowd engaged in your findings.
  • Tie your data back to something practical. It’s great that 56% of your participants recognized your client’s product. But what does it mean for sales? What recommendations would you make to change the marketing strategy based on that information? Tie it back to something your client can use.
  • Pull out some specifics. Look at key data points, statistics and themes/ topics that emerged from the data. Keep the facts clear, concise and relevant to your client’s goals.
  • Demonstrate patterns in the data. Let’s say you conducted a multi-method study. What patterns emerged from the focus groups that you also saw in the online survey? What themes kept coming up? What were the gaps? That is the kind of information that will help drive strategic decisions for your client.

Finally, do NOT do a “data dump”! Research requires context. Your client (or anyone else who didn’t actually collect the data) can’t discern what information is meaningful to them if you only give them 100 pages of statistical analysis. Go deeper. Find the patterns. Pull out those insights. Make your research memorable- and more importantly- actionable.


About the Author

As Vice President of Research and Strategic Insight for The Vandiver Group, Inc., Laura has over fifteen years experience in both public health and market research, as well as training, facilitation, and strategic communications.  She has worked on projects for the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Laura has also managed a number of strategic initiatives focused on communication and implementation for national health care organizations, and has extensive experience working with physicians and care teams. As a trained medical anthropologist now working in corporate market research, Laura is constantly looking for ways to bring together the worlds of research and communication. Her goal is to help other researchers learn to talk about research in ways that resonate with key stakeholders and audiences. Laura is also a Certified Practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) instrument. For more information, visit www.vandivergroup.com.


The insights I received from iModerate really brought our NPS program to life. While it was always highly-visible and important to key stakeholders it did not resonate as well with the majority of employees. The iModerate piece rounded out the NPS program and brought it to a place where it is now more valued, transparent and salient across the organization. Having the consumer’s voice and that context has helped us build business cases and impact operations in a way that has led to great success.

Adriana Smith, Manager, Brand Strategy, NRG Energy